If you have a great map of Vancouver Island (with the ocean, lakes, roads, and mountains) then even if you spill coffee on it, you would still have a pretty good idea of how to get to Nanaimo. Pilates develops the same body map in your brain – this is called the homunculus & there are specific areas on the brain devoted to each area of our body. You’ll notice (for survival reasons), there is large area devoted to the sensation of the fingers & face, but less so the rest of the body.
But we don’t just want to survive, we want to feel great! So when Jacqueline taps my ribcage & reminds me to connect, or Sharon challenges me with fancy footwork, or Dana gets me to relax my back & Holly gets me standing at Barre class, I am calibrating my body map to make it extra resilient.
Having a strong body map makes us more adaptable, as there are always different roads to take. If my knees are achey from jumping, I can bend through my spine instead. If my back is tense from my 6 year old nephew jumping on me, I can use my legs more for a week or so. Once the sensitivity is gone, I can return to moving normally, again using pilates to recalibrate that trusty body map that is always with me.
Jenna Peters is a physiotherapist at Shelbourne Physiotherapy. She works closely with our Pilates instructors both in her personal practice and with clients to provide informed and safe rehabilitation.