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The Pilates Bookshelf: Waking the Tiger


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A book recommendation from Madeline Black 

A Pilates teacher today is presented with clients with issues beyond the physical. They may have problems that are emotional, energetic or spiritual in nature. The physical part is easier for us to understand because that is what we are trained to see and intellectually problem-solve. Sometimes, however, the effort we put into planning and working with a client doesn’t advance the client as well as we’d like it to.

In order to work in a deeper, more expanded way with my clients, I’ve searched out new methodologies and philosophies over the years. I’ve also studied myself to find more clarity, balance and openness. (A teacher once told me not to treat someone who is healthier than you are.) I’ve spent years learning and receiving IMT (Integrative Manual Therapy), other manual therapies, energy work and meditation practices, and I’ve done lots of reading. Through these explorations, I’ve developed tools to share or reference for my clients. And sometimes, I simply observe and better understand their complexity without making any comments or judgments to them. A Pilates teacher’s scope of practice is to refer a client, when appropriate, to their practitioner of choice such as a doctor, chiropractor or physical therapist. I may also recommend a book.

In the coming months, I will be sharing some of the books and resources that have deepened my knowledge and self-practice and have enhanced my teaching beyond Pilates.

This month, I recommend a book about dealing with trauma: Waking the Tiger by Peter A. Levine, PhD, with Ann Frederick (North Atlantic Books, 1997). Dr. Levine is well known for his research about how animals in the wild deal with stress and trauma. His discoveries have led him to successfully treat people to release trauma in the body.

Dr. Levine found that a traumatic experience can push the nervous system into a frozen state of memory. This means is that someone who has experienced trauma will respond in a reactive way to stimuli. This response is different for each person depending on the severity of the trauma and how the person processed the event (if at all). It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including a constant contraction of certain muscles or no feeling at all, like amnesia of the body.

I’ve seen clients in my practice who have experienced traumas, such as car accidents, a traumatic fall as a child, or as a witness to a traumatic event. I began to recognize a “holding” in a client’s body that wouldn’t change through movement, or I would see no movement in specific areas of the body. Chronic pain in the spine or joints or headaches can also be signs of a charge being held from a trauma.

Waking the Tiger gives scientific explanation (the intellectual), exercises for feeling the frozen memory in the body (the physical), and processes for releasing it (the emotional and energetic). I recommended the book to a client who had a whiplash injury from a car accident.  She read and practiced the exercises in the book and was able to work through Dr. Levine’s process to discharge the held energy in her body. Her pain lessened, which enabled her to move forward in her Pilates workouts, strengthening her core to support her head and neck. Unfortunately, she was rear-ended a second time, but this time she had the skills to deal with the impact of the accident not only on her body, but on her emotions too. She was thankful for the knowledge of how to deal with a repeat trauma.

The book is an interesting read with case study examples. For more information about Dr. Levine’s book and work and to search for Somatic Experiencing® practitioners visit the Foundation for Human Enrichment.

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Madeline Black has 20 years of Pilates teaching experience and currently directs Studio M in Sonoma, CA. Madeline has a B.S. in PE and Dance from Skidmore College, has ACE, ACSM, Gyrotonic® and PMA certifications, and is currently studying Integrative Manual Therapy. Madeline presents advanced continuing education seminars for Body Mind Spirit Expo, Pilates On Tour and the Pilates Method Alliance, and at studios in around the world. 


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Posted on Monday, February 25, 2008 at 09:50AM by Registered CommenterAmy Leibrock in , , | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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