Winter Solstice and Transitions
Winter Solstice falls on December 21st this year, the day with the shortest daylight hours and the longest night. In Calgary, Winter Solstice arrives at exactly 3:44 am MST1, transitioning us from darkness to light. As we observe the days getting shorter leading up to December 21st, it is an opportune time to reflect on how we have made transitions throughout 2016 and how we can embrace new beginnings.
“It’s all about the transitions” is a saying I remember hearing many times in my Pilates teacher trainings. Skillful transitions are what make your Pilates session flow and feel effortless – choppy transitions will interrupt your rhythm and slow you down. It’s the moment just after you have finished one exercise, but haven’t quite started the next – this is what we call the “transition”.
Transition can have many meanings – it can mean a change, a transformation, or a process. To me, a transition is all of these, and also signifies a movement from the past to the present, so that you can move into the future.
In the classical lineages that I have trained in (Pilates elders Ron Fletcher and Romana Kryzanowska), there are specific transitions for both the Mat and the Reformer work. You may have noticed that we normally start on the left side of the Reformer, or that we come down on to the mat from standing in the Advanced Mat order. These transitions can be considered exercises by themselves – they require all of the Pilates principles to get you from one exercise to the next with flow, concentration, control, centering, precision, and breath! Take time to explore and experience the transitions each time you work out.
When we finish our last repetition of Rolling like a ball into the first repetition of Single Leg Stretch in the Pilates matwork, there is a short time (maybe only a couple of seconds) that we are no longer rolling, but not yet started single leg stretch. Perhaps you don’t even notice what is happening between the two exercises; you unconsciously finish rolling and start Single Leg Stretch. However, those two seconds are where the magic happens!
In those two seconds, you have let go of the past (finished Rolling like a Ball), moved into the present (in limbo between two exercises) and prepared for the future (Single leg stretch). That limbo is not simply the time when the arms are no longer in the rolling like a ball position, or when the spine is moving into the flexed spine position for the entire Stomach Series – it is the time when you are fully present with your breath, moving with intent and awareness, and in the moment. How you move from one exercise to the next dictates how well (or not) the next exercise will be done. Without intent or moving mindfully through the transition, your body may end up in less than optimal alignment, or unable to fully engage the correct muscles in the following exercise.
Have you ever had the experience in a Pilates class or session where all of a sudden, you look up, and an entire hour has passed by without you realizing it? That is the magic of transitions – when you are truly present, the past (what you did before class, previous exercises) doesn’t matter. You feel a sense of joy, happiness, and ease as you move forward. You find exactly what Joseph Pilates called “spontaneous zest and pleasure!”
How can Pilates transitions relate to our lives outside of the studio?
Letting go of the past, when we are unsure of what the future will bring can sometimes be a scary thing – but when we let go of something (whether it be a thought, a belief, or even a material object) it opens up room for something even bigger and greater. You have created space to expand and succeed. Being present and trusting yourself in the transition period is where growth happens, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual.
Life is a journey, not a destination ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Think back on special memories or certain events that you have experienced over the past year. Can you think of an example where you made a transition? What were the events leading up to it? How did you feel during the transition time? How did you feel afterwards?
Stay present. Be magical. Transform and light up your world.
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