Saturday, 15 December 2018

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Flow, Balance And Wellbeing

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I’m a Movement Practitioner and teacher offering Pilates and Gyrotonic® lessons from my Postural Persuasions studio in Laurieston, Falkirk.

I also provide rehabilitation and specialist classes in Pilates and Gyrokinesis® at Physis in Grangemouth. Furthermore, I offer a broad spectrum of classes suited to people with mental health issues, the ageing population, weight loss concerns, pain relief and also sensory issues within the Forth Valley. My students learn specific exercises which enable them to master movements that can change their lives. In doing so I help them to reach their potential and personal goals — anything from helping golfers decrease their handicap to assisting people in recovering mobility following a stroke. 

My work establishes the healing connections between body and mind and can benefit a broad spectrum of the community. The body requires contrast in order to achieve optimal performance and I utilise imagery such as that of a trees roots and branches to explain the importance of creating space in the joints in order to facilitate efficient and preferred movement patterns. For me everything begins with the feet and how we weight bear has a crucial effect upon our overall body alignment. For example, continuous weight bearing on the heels will cause significant shifts in our spines to try to maintain our fulcrum and sense of balance. 

I also like to work from the skeletal structure, guiding students to move from the bones as opposed to the muscular system. This often results in reduced gripping patterns, increased flow and stops the student from trying too hard thus facilitating improved breathing and awareness that results in them feeling alive, released, and empowered. The body–mind connection naturally produces a motivated, energised, and rejuvenated body which embraces a spirit of calm and wellbeing. 

Certain aspects of my work are particularly suited to people recovering from illness or trauma — adopting principles of mindfulness, meditation and correct use of the breath. I draw on influences from Alexander, Feldenkrais, Rolfing and Skinner Releasing techniques to create specific programmes for day-to-day use. To date, clients have included people suffering from Parkinsons, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, as well as amputees, elite athletes and the young, fit and healthy. 

Taking preventative as well as a curative approach, I also offer pre physio exercises that focus on core strength workplace and flexibility whilst looking at eliminating the potential for RSI injuries by considering lifestyle concerns. For instance, rather than enduring expensive and often unsuccessful operations I teach people how to move their hands and wrists in patterns that help to prevent conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. I assist clients who spend hours each day bent over a computer in avoiding physical problems that occur from this modern day common plague by teaching them upper body openings and techniques to take the body into extension rather than flexion. 

Whilst most people are now quite familiar with the Pilates method, I am keen to introduce and encourage the use of the other techniques that I teach and offer. I’ve been promoting the amazing recuperative and wellness-promoting powers of Gyrotonic® since 2002. The Gyrotonic method employs key principles found in a number of physical disciplines including swimming, dancing, yoga, tai chi, and gymnastics. Hungarian ex dancer, Juliu Horvath, spent six years in St Thomas recovering from a severe injury where he drew on influences from yoga, dance and meditation to devise his own unique system originally known as “yoga for dancers”. 

However, he very quickly transformed this into a class format that almost any person could perform, regardless of age or state of health that is known today as Gyrokinesis® He then devised specialised equipment to extend his work and created the Gyrotonic® Method.

I teach this method using the highly innovative Gyrotonic Expansion System equipment with its pulley tower and handle units to guide my clients through a challenging yet enjoyable class. With Gyrotonic exercises, each movement flows into the next, allowing the joints to move through a natural range of motion without jarring or compression. These carefully crafted sequences create balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility. This unique system enables simultaneous lengthening and strengthening of muscles, stimulates circulation, and enhances joint mobility and coordination. Because Gyrotonic equipment is highly adjustable, it can be customised to fit each person’s unique physique and ability, adapting for things such as height, arm and leg length and physical ability. 

Both of Juliu’s methods can be enjoyed by my clients either on the machines or in a Gyrokinesis group class which is taught on stools and mats. As with Pilates, I prefer to teach in small groups such as solo, duet, quintet (max 5), and chorus (max 14) classes so that each and every student receives personal attention and correction. 

Famous A-list celebrities who have become fans of the fabulous technique include Tiger Woods. Madonna, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Perhaps most notable is that Forth Valley hero and new world number one tennis player Andy Murray has been using Gyrotonic to help improve his game, with spectacular results! 

In spite of decades of experience with movement-based performance and therapies, I’m engaged in life-long learning to continually renew and further my skills as a movement practitioner in order to remain on the cutting edge of all of the methods I share. For example, I recently completed a major update in Brussels where I studied with Abel Horvath embracing the concept of “Gyrotonic into the Extremes”. 

In addition to this, I also offer other techniques which I learned more recently to help me to recover from my own injuries. For example, I am able to offer manual therapies such as Scottish physiotherapist Hugh Gilbert’s Kinetic Chain Release. This is a medically approved system of gentle joint mobilisations and stretches that provides release of symptoms for a lengthy list of ailments, from fibromyalgia to post traumatic stress disorder. Once again, my main concern is bringing bodies into a state of flow, balance and wellbeing. 

BACK STORY 

I was born in Glasgow and moved to Grangemouth when I was two years old. I was attracted to anything involving movement from the time I executed my first childish somersault. I performed a lively improvised version of Lord of the Dance while still in high school and this planted the seed for the rest of my life. 

My plan was to apply to drama school, but when I was 16 years old my spiritual balance was thrown off by the death of my father in a car crash. Mum encouraged me to move past my pain and to follow my dream, however, so the next year I boarded a train for London with the intention of pursuing my ultimate goal of becoming a dancer. 

While riding the train to London, my road ahead was clarified as I read the writings of Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, two people who had the greatest influence on dance in history. 

I enrolled at the prestigious London’s Laban Dance Centre and graduated with an Honours Degree with a major in Sociology of Dance and a dissertation on “Dance Development in Scotland”. This nicely paved the way for my first professional appointment as the Scottish Arts Council’s Trainee Dance Artist in Residence.  

During this time, three decades ago I helped set up the first Scottish Youth Dance Festival, which is still going strong. I was invited to be a dancer and choreographer with the Dundee Rep Dance Company, which is now called Scottish Dance Theatre, which I did so for around three years and subsequently worked as Dancer in Residence in various Scottish regions. I created and performed in several dance companies and was lucky to work with Point Blank, Grey Coast Theatre, The Gaelic Arts Project and participated in dance performances on the Isle of Skye utilising traditional music and percussive foot work alongside contemporary dance. I did a lot of teaching and learned to work from the perspective that anybody can dance, but I would push the boundaries of each student’s capabilities whatever their level of competence. 

As my career matured, I began to apply for funding to broaden the scope of my work and was most fortunate to receive funding from many sources including Equity, Lisa Ullman Dancers Trust, Ross and Cromarty Council, a scholarship fund from the University of Washington, and the Scottish Arts Council. Consequently, I embarked in extensive training in Pilates with Alan Herdman, another former dancer who is credited with bringing the method to the UK in the 1960s. I went to Seattle where I studied with Joan Skinner and mastered her Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT). I studied with Betty Jones at the Limon Institute in New York and danced at the Judson Theatre with Sara Pearson and Patrick Widrig. 

During this time I found myself deeply involved with Contact Release, working with Steve Paxton KJ Holmes, Sean Curran and took Pilates with Doug Elkins Dance Company. While doing all that I started a master’s degree from the University of Surrey in Gilford, gaining double distinctions in Choreography. However, life became so busy that I had to stop at post graduate diploma as my Pilates work was exploding due to extensive referrals from the actress Susan Hampshire who had been filming Monarch of the Glen at this time! 

In 1998 I opened my own London studio, called Personal Pilates, which was a private, boutique-scale operation that I ran from my home studio in Marylebone. The business flourished again when a contact introduced me to HRH Sultanah of Pahang. She introduced me to other people who moved in her exalted social strata, describing my approach as follows: 

“Using imaginary and heightened language she helps you to approach each breathe, each gesture with an awareness that has you melting into qualitative pure movement which leaves you feeling alive, released and empowered. She uses her voice and hands to coax your body into the very extremities of your movement potential. Gently encouraging you to break previous gripping patterns and postural bad habits she leads you into a place of relentless grace.” 

Leading osteopaths and physical therapists began sending people to me for therapy and remedial challenges. I considered pursuing Osteopathy as a new career path, but decided to remain focused on my life passion of teaching people to improve themselves through movement. 

London is a long way from Grangemouth and I had promised my mother that I would come home. Furthermore, my schedule was overloaded and work began to consume me, so in 2014 I shut things down and moved back home to renew ties with my family. As I wasn’t ready to retire, I began to build a new business in my hometown region. 

I’ve met amazing people on my journey. I’m a working-class girl who has had rich experiences of physical, mental, and spiritual development. I’m passionate about promoting the power of movement to transform people’s lives and am willing to do whatever I can do to pass on to others the lessons that can enhance their life-journeys just as they have been so effective in enriching mine.

 

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