I first heard the cue, “find the ease of the exercise” while working in private zoom sessions with Jennifer Kries. She would say it when I was first learning the Classical Method and I would think to myself, “What is she nuts?” The work was challenging and required my concentration and strength, the concept of ‘ease’ when I had to work so hard and my body was often shaking, made no sense. As I continued to practice and continued to struggle, however, little by little, with her guidance, I began to discover glimpses of the ‘ease’ she was referring to.
For me the ease comes hand in hand with the flow. The more I let the exercises flow from one to the other without stopping, and the more I stopped bracing myself in anticipation of an exercise that I did not like, or did not understand, the more the ease would creep into my practice. The ease also came with my greater proficiency in the work. The less time it takes me to organize my body and turn on what needs to be turned on, the more time I have to cue in to what needs to open and relax and gives me a moment to scan my body for any unnecessary tension. The more I understand the rhythm of the exercises, ‘their songs’ (as I learned from Clare) the more I find the ease of the movement. Like classical music that takes you through rising crescendos and then descends in a trill. It is all there within the exercises, individually and the session as a whole. As I work hard, I allow my body to rise and fall through the varied notes and intensity of the exercises.
I first encourage my clients to look for these moments of ‘ease’ in exercises that perhaps, they aren’t working intensely, but they are still moving. I use such exercises to encourage them to start looking for that sense of ‘ease’. On ‘down stretch’ I will say, “Make this easy, let this flow, use it as a breathing exercise, relax any unnecessary muscles you do not need to be tensing.” I also point out that this is how they advance in the work, by knowing the exercises they are doing, organizing their bodies into that exercise more quickly and working hard but not over working, but working hard with ‘ease’.
I will also draw their attention to how if they make their breath easy and controlled, no matter how they feel, it tells their body’s not to freak out and that they ‘got this’ even when they are working very intensely. When I work them through the ab series and they come to lower and lift, I tell them to use this as a chance to calm themselves even though they are fatiguing and the work is hard. I point out that this is exactly how they build stamina. I guide them to calm their bodies with this exercise by taking long calm breaths and not rushing through it. I instruct them to take a deep inhale, reaching their legs long and away, and a deep exhale as they use their low belly to float their legs back up. I encourage my clients not to brace against the hard work but rather settle in and use ‘ease’ in their self-talk. I tell them instead of thinking, “Oh God this is horrible, I can’t do this, I want this to be over.” I tell them to settle into the work, tell their selves, “I got this, this is no big deal, I have my breath and I can move through this and become stronger. This is how I build my stamina.”
Scanning my body for unnecessary stress and tension, positive self-talk, breath work and tuning into the rise and fall of the rhythm of the exercises and the session all help me find the ‘ease of movement’ in my own practice and is how I guide my clients to hopefully find it in theirs as well.