Biomimicry – Pilates follows the birds and the bees
The next time you zip on your sandals and head off to your Pilates class, spare a thought for Arctium.
The genus Arctium, or burdock, is the family of plants that produces burs. And it provides the platform for a perfect example of biomimicry.
As you can probably guess, biomimicry is the art and science of copying or borrowing from nature to achieve a benefit for humans. It fuelled Swiss engineer, George de Mestral’s curiosity in the early 1940s when a walk in the woods left his trousers and his dog covered in burs.
Understanding nature’s dynamics helps us communicate with our clients how the human body works collectively.
By hook or by crook
A microscope examination revealed the tiny hooks the burs were equipped with to cling to the hair of animals. Hitching a free ride on the flanks of cow or a fox meant wider seed distribution and improved chances of survival and reproduction for the genus.
De Mestral patented a commercial application for a unique fastening system. Combining the French words velours (velvet) and crochet (hooked needle), his biomimicry gave the world Velcro.
How does biomimicry express itself in and through Pilates? And how does Pilates use biomimicry to make a difference to your body, your consciousness, and you life?
For a start, your body is itself a microcosm of life at every level, from the cellular to the systemic.
Cyclical inter - connectedness
When you consider macro-systems—the earth’ climate and weather patterns, ocean currents, river systems, fauna and flora interactions— you see cyclical inter-connectedness on a grand scale.
The Pilates method adopts the same philosophy for the human body, and then goes further. As Joseph Pilates said: ‘Normal muscles should function naturally in much the same manner as do the muscles of animals.’
He also believed that as in nature where no energy is expended unnecessarily, Pilates could teach or reconnect natural energy flows lost in centuries of human development. In other words, Pilates can help us unlearn the unnatural lessons we too-clever-by-half humans have taught ourselves since the industrial revolution.
No straight lines
The natural world, as we know, has no straight lines. Imagine kelp spiralling in the tide, a willow flexing in the wind, or satellite images of vast weather systems swirling over continents. These constantly remind us that much of nature organises itself along rotational lines.
Constant temperature and pressure differentials give rise to unceasing air and ocean currents with global influence. It’s no coincidence our own physiques and movements are built on spirals.
We also do well to remember that our bodies are around 75% of fluids, which reminds of us of another natural phenomenon in fluid dynamics.
Our helical DNA
From the microscopic - the helical shape of our DNA-to the make-up of major muscle, sinew, and bone structures, spiral systems underpin all our movements. Of particular interest to Pilates is the spiral make-up of fascia and its interconnection with and influence on bones and joints.
A reading of Jay Harman’s The Shark’s Paintbrush: biomimicry and how nature is inspiring innovation provides a greater appreciation to the process of human life. How we are formed and move around in a living architecture.
It is relationship between tensions and compressions within the body is the true language of human motion. This is explained in the model of BioTensgerity and the work of Dr Stephan Levin.
Bio Tensegrity is the tensioned 3D structure that is formed under tension and compression. A continuous tensional network of connective tissue woven within the disconnected compressions elements, bones, suspended in the body.
BioTensegrity accounts for mind, body, soul as a team that works together, rather than the idea that of the body moving in parts.
It is the dialogue that is spoken in the philosophy and principles of the Pilates Method.