How can awarenss help us move more efficiently? L-SL spoke to Ramona Peoples from Body Orchestra to find out about her holistic approach to bodywork and movement
Less-Stress London: Body Orchestra is a wonderfully descriptive name. Can you explain the Body Orchestra approach to movement and bodywork?
Ramona Peoples: The Body Orchestra approach is to see the individual as a whole when looking at how they move. What might inhibit certain movements? What might contribute to discomfort or even pain? I’m always looking to improve movement through a combination of hands-on bodywork and exercise so clients can feel better, improve their performance or reduce their pain. Some sessions can also be simply relaxing, if that’s what the individual needs.
L-SL: You offer group classes and individual sessions in pilates and yoga, combining both with ideokinesis and applied functional movement science. What are the benefits of this combination?
RP: I try in both my pilates and yoga teaching to bring in the whole body’approach and consider the connections within the body, so that movements become integrated rather than isolated. Pilates in particular has become known as working on isolated areas of the body, for instance the core muscles. But this is not really how the body moves in daily life. We don’t stop to switch one part of our body on and another off, rather the whole body is involved in our movements.
We don’t stop to switch one part of our body on and another off; the whole body is involved in our movements
In my yoga classes I’m playful with ways of moving in and out of the poses so everybody can find what works for them and their individual needs. I often use a variety of balls to help release tension so that everybody can find more freedom and ease in their movements.
L-SL: Can you talk about structural integration?
RP: Structural integration aims to restore structural balance, ease and fluidity of movement, giving a feeling of being comfortable in your own skin. It’s a multi-session bodywork treatment focusing on fascia and deep tissue combined with movements.
Fascia is quite a buzzword at the moment. This connective tissue surrounding, supporting and permeating all the muscles, bones, nerves and organs is part of the body that hadn’t been studied or valued until the past 10 years or so. Now we understand that when we work the fascia we can affect a person’s whole being, their perception of themselves and their overall wellbeing.
L-SL: What happens in the one-to-one sessions?
RP: Each session starts with an observation of postural and movement patterns throughout the whole body, not just focusing on the problem or pain spot. Injury, trauma, posture or movement habits can affect the body in unique ways. The knock-on effects can often be felt elsewhere in the body as discomfort or pain.
For instance, if somebody comes with back pain, we don’t just look at the back but at the whole body. They may be struggling becasue their pelvis is not supporting the back very well. Or their hips are not moving efficiently, or their feet aren’t adapting to the floor very well. I then work on the client’s fascia and he or she participates through movements of their body. Most of the work is completed on a treatment table, but some may be done while the client is upright and moving.
When I’m looking at a client’s movements, I do so from a functional perspective, looking at the movements they do regularly in daily life. How do these transfer from one part of the body to another? That helps me design some homework exercises to support the work from the session, which the client can fit into their daily life.
L-SL: Can structural integration be used as a preventative treatment?
RP: Structural integration can be used as a kind of MOT for the body, not only when there is a problem. A client can come for one-off sessions. However, the best, most permanent and progressive results are obtained by undergoing a series of sessions where the entire body is worked systematically. Through the course of these sessions you are likely to achieve a shift. In that sense it is not like your recurring monthly massage – there can be a real process of change on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, behaviourally and spiritually.
L-SL: Your approach has a lot to do with awareness of the body.
RP: Yes, I think awareness has a part to play. If you’re not aware of how you’re moving or holding yourself in the first place, how are you going to do it differently?
Some people attend my classes and start to notice when they do a particular movement – for example with their arms – how it affects their painful back. Then they become aware of how they might improve that painful back, not only in class but in their daily life, by learning to avoid things that make it painful or by using movements and techniques that help make it feel better.
With awareness, people can take ownership of what they’re trying to achieve and learn how to do it effectively
Sometimes though it’s hard to convince a client that they need to be part of the process, rather than hoping for a quick-fix. I can facilitate change but I can’t fix anything. If after the treatment, the client goes back to the same bad habits they had before, the results won’t be as long-lasting.
L-SL: Would you say that Londoners have any specific issues or expectations with regard to wellbeing or self-care?
RP: I’d say that Londoners have perhaps a little less patience and would rather opt for a quick-fix approach. It’s hard to make generalisations, but Londoners are perhaps in greater need of self-care, though might pursue it less as there are so many demands on their resources, whether time, money or simply having the energy to attend a session.