Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Anatomy in Clay

I first encountered this at the Pilates Method Alliance International Meeting in 2013
I've been nagging to have it brought to Tucson since Kyria and I were there in Fort Lauderdale.
Last Thursday, desire and opportunity collided.
I sat beside my PilatesStrong mentor, gazing at my own personal plastic skeleton.
I wish I had named it..... but there really wasn't much time for random thoughts.
We were instructed to create 3 or 4 flat pieces 
and tubes of varying diameters
while we introduced ourselves to one another. 
The eleven other students counted Pilates Professional among their list of accomplishments.
I was the only one unversed in anatomy.
It didn't seem to matter.
Speaking without notes, asking questions and repeating material and reminding us of that which she'd just told us, Dallas encouraged us and gently corrected us while moving us along in our study of the torso in three dimension.

We rolled small, perfect clay balls as she taught us about the vertebrae.
The cervical vertebral bodies have pointy protuberances which allow them to fold over one another.
The lower you go the bigger and thicker they become.  They tilt forward and backward and have holes through which nerves travel.  And between them are the discs, which we created by flattening our small balls and then wrapping it with a round or two of the thicker tube.
With reckless abandon, we placed our disc between two vertebra and pushed them together.
We were all squirming, just a little, feeling it in our own spines, as we rolled and coiled and pressed, in groups of 3 and 4, until we had an entire spinal column, replete with nerves and a chest wall, before us.
And on it went. We created muscles with striations in the appropriate directions
I learned about the bones and the muscles blown apart by my shooter's bullets.  As we connected fatter tubes from pubis to pelvis to femur, my entry wounds began to throb.  I traced their intersection with 9mm bullets in my hip, in my thigh, in the origins and the insertions, of the muscles whose striations I was carving. 

"No wonder I limp!" 

Understanding why I have trouble lifting my thigh alerted me to changes I could make to my gait. I'm imagining the structures I created, even as I struggle to remember their names.  I'm acutely aware of their presence and their function, at least in a general sense, just as Dallas promised.  Given a test immediately after the class, there would be no difference between those of us who learned with clay and those who did not.  But, over time, we anatomical sculptors would retain a lot more.  

It's been three days and I'm remembering more and more. I spent some time this afternoon communing with my diaphragm, considering its connection to my organs and ribs and vertebra. Breathing is much more interesting since I spent a day playing with clay.

 Last night, after eleven hours of driving and sitting and driving and sitting and driving and standing and finally getting home, after no exercise at all, I was done... put a fork in me... where is my comfy place?  Watching me from across the room, TBG, my staunchest supported and most honest evaluator, complimented the pace and ease and evenness of my gait.... without being asked (as I do when I'm feeling particularly coordinated).... with a big smile on his face.    

It was an intellectual exercise with immediate, practical applications.
And it was really a lot of fun.
Obviously, you don't need a scientific background to appreciate the program.
They travel all over; you should check it out.

(And no, this is not a paid post.)


  1. That is really amazing. I would love to have the opportunity to do that workshop.

    1. Olga, it was wonderful! If it comes back to town, I'll be sure to mention it here.


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