In our daily movements we rarely think or consider whether we have good coordination or not. For some of us, it may only come to light when we dance and find we have 2 left feet!
According to Wikipedia “coordination” is “the movement of several limbs or body parts combined in a manner that is well-timed, smooth and efficient with respect to the intended goal”.
I know I am not well coordinated with the left side of my body. Learning to do new movements that initiate with my left arm or leg makes me feel clumsy and unsure.
It is a key reason why I do Pilates. The movements in Pilates usually involve a combination of various body parts and are not held static. On the other hand, it can be very challenging for a beginner even with a simple movement such as a side bend or lateral flexion.
As the picture below shows, the person’s hips and head are not aligned. It can be quite challenging to get a student to align the head during side bend – even if there is a mirror in front.
In Pilates, the teacher may say it is lack of awareness but at a deeper level it is a lack of coordination. This is because coordination involves the integration of proprioceptive* information detailing the position and movement of the various body parts with the neural processes in the brain.
*sense of relative position of neighbouring parts of the body
At times, the student (or brain) understands what is required, yet muscles are not working in a well-timed manner to achieve the alignment in one movement. It may take a few adjustments to achieve the desired alignment.
Coordination is hugely important for athletes. Take a golf swing for example. To hit the golf ball the golfer needs to move the hips, trunk and arm.
But beginners tend to move their arm first (and hit nothing!) compared to professional golfers who are well coordinated with their swings.
We all know a well-coordinated movement when we see it – words like grace, effortless and beauty come to mind.
To a beginner, movements in Pilates may not appear to be movements we do daily. Yet, because of Pilates, we develop awareness and well coordinated movements that would make our other activities easy and effortless. Athletes also develop grace, power and speed required in their sports.