Mind & Motion

Pilates and the Practitioner

Posted in Health by Meghan Pickrell on November 27, 2011

As promised (a week late… we have turkey and lots of pumpkin pie to blame), today’s post is dedicated to my master’s thesis research. Ok, don’t stop reading just yet. I know “research” does not at first elicit the most enticing of thoughts… it might even sound a bit boring- numbers, stats, results and conclusions. It’s all very scientific. However, research can also bring light to new ideas and even validate an intuitive “hunch.” We can even scientifically prove the reasons behind feelings and experiences through research.

I am interested in the unconscious experience. I parred down my research to the field of psychophysiology (psycho: mind, physiology: body, = mind + body). The field of psychophysiology uncovers the science behind the mind + body exchange. Even more specifically, I dealt with the realm of coregulation. Coregulation occurs when two systems start to synchronize with one another. For instance, as you yawn, others yawn around you – have you  had this experience?

As a somatic practitioner, I have always been quite interested in the relationship between a practitioner (or therapist, teacher etc) and the client. Through my research, I looked at the physiological relationship between a practitioner and a client during a pilates session.  The main physiological features I measured were differences in heart rate and respiratory rate. Does the physiological state of a practitioner have a physiological effect on their client?

Using the LifeShirt, a physiological monitoring device which measures over 100 physiological attributes, I was able to measure moment by moment differences in heart rate and respiratory rate between me (the practitioner) and the client (15 female kinesiology students).

Here’s what we found. Although our power was too low to bring statistical significance to the study, trends were discovered between the practitioner and client. As the practitioner increased or decreased heart rate so did the client. Trends were also found in how these two subjects shifted from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. Coregulation was found between shifts in the autonomic nervous system (the autonomic nervous system is comprised of heart rate, respiratory rate, digestion etc. – the unconscious part of our body which runs without conscious thought).

Here’s what this means. We effect one another- not only consciously, but unconsciously. This means, as pilates teachers, we may effect the autonomic nervous system of others in some capacity. Our demeanor and physiological state can influence our clients. Keeping our bodies and mind in a healthy place may help promote healing for others. See, research can be pretty cool.

I always say, as a rule, you should feel safe and secure with any health and wellness practitioner or MD. I believe that the relationship you have with those who serve to keep you healthy is as important as the mediums they are using. If you don’t feel safe then you are too tense to allow healing to begin. Trust your instincts when committing to your health. The healing relationship may go deeper than we now know.


2 Responses

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  1. Carole Amend said, on November 27, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    This is really wonderful. Congrats on a job so well done…a terrific contribution! Where can I get my signed copy?

  2. cnotemaker said, on November 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Completely agree with having a good relationship. You must trust the process and the person.

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