Don’t we all want to be a little bit more focused in life?
I had a hectic day yesterday. I was running errands with my 19-months-old twins all morning. They fell asleep in the car on the way home so they refused to take a nap later. I had a huge list of things that I had to get done (some things were for PilatesBridge.com, others were for my home studio.) When I finally got 1 hour of quiet time to tackle my to-do list my mind was like a race car doing doughnuts in the parking lot without actually going anywhere. It literally took me 40 minutes to answer a very simple email that should have taken just 10 minutes at the most.
We all have days like that when we get distracted easily and our mind simply refuses to follow a single straight-forward direction. But I didn’t actually realize that some people get to live in this state of distractions every day. Until recently, I had very vague understanding of what ADHD was. I heard about this condition a lot, mostly from the parents whose children were diagnosed with it, but I never had any personal experience with ADHD.
Recently, I had an opportunity to talk to Laura Browning Grant, a second generation Pilates teacher and the creator of the Pilates & ADHD Training Course, a PMA Approved Continuing Education Course. I am happy to announce that Laura is a new contributor here on PilatesBridge.com and she will be regularly sharing her Pilates insights with all of us. But today I asked her to share a little bit about her Pilates story and her ADHD story. She has great tips for anyone working with ADHD clients or just any person who needs a little bit more focus in life (and who doesn’t?)
Before we dive into this amazing and advice-packed interview, let me remind you that last week we talked about teaching Pilates to children. A lot of kids are diagnosed with ADHD these days but it’s difficult in general for kids to stay concentrated these days (I know about it first-hand as I do home work with my 6-year-old twins every day.) Learning to deal with ADHD kids can be a missing link for the instructors who choose to work with youth or for parents who are trying to help their kids do better in school.
1. Laura, what sparked your love for Pilates?
My passion for Pilates was sparked by the mind/body connection I felt during and after a Pilates session. I struggled as an adolescent with academics, but pushed myself to keep up and get good grades. But, unlike academics, Pilates was a natural fit. For the first time, I understood concepts and everything fit into place.
2. How was Pilates helpful to you personally in managing ADHD?
Pilates improved my ability to focus. The complex movements, coordination and breathing patterns all play a part in changing the way my brain processes outside stimuli. After a Pilates session, I feel centered and more focused. I find that I am better equipped to meet the challenges of daily activities when Pilates is part of my life.
3. Laura, could you please explain from a personal perspective what it means to have ADHD?
*(A lot of instructors who have clients with these symptoms might not be aware of the challenges associated with this condition.)Individuals suffering with ADHD symptoms struggle with the ability to process outside stimuli. The normal brain has the ability to filter stimuli according to importance. For those individuals, being in a crowded place with lots of distractions is not a challenge. Their brains can focus on the conversation in front of them and block out the car passing by outside the window. But, for a person suffering from ADHD, they see and hear every distraction and become overwhelmed by all the stimuli.
The brain activity of an ADHD sufferer operates at a much slower rate. Thus, all the stimuli coming in at one time are too much for their brain to process. For that reason, an individual may seem out of control as they try to process the stimuli.
For me, I never understood this concept and assumed I was just “different”.
I remember being in the classroom, listening to the teacher and having no idea what she was saying. I would watch her mouth, listen to someone shuffling in their chair, wiggle in my seat, etc. all at one time. I had no idea how my classmates knew what the teacher was talking about. Once I was properly diagnosed and started taking appropriate medication, I understood why I always felt disconnected.
I remember walking down the beach shortly thereafter and mentioning to my mom that it was the first time I noticed the grains of sand and the birds chirping overhead. I had no idea that awareness of your surroundings was possible.
4. What does your personal Pilates practice look like today?
I personally find time everyday to do some type of mind/body practice. Pilates, Gyrotonic, or Yoga. As for my Pilates practice I recently have been stepping away from the movements I love doing and doing those that are not my favorite. As we all know, the ones we dislike doing usually are the ones we need. That being said, I also love to go back to the basics. I truly believe there is something powerful following the order Joseph Pilates first created!
5. What are the difficulties of working with ADHD clients?
- Losing focus,
- eyes wandering,
- easily distracted.
6. What are your 7 go-to strategies (as a teacher) for helping ADHD clients enjoy their sessions as well as managing their symptoms?
- Complex movements.
- Full body integration.
- Tactile cuing.
7. How do you educate community (local and global) about the benefits of Pilates for ADHD? Is it difficult to grow your client base in this specific field?
I have tried to create resources through my social media accounts to bring awareness and tools to help others. I just recently made available my manual Pilates & ADHD for purchase which I hope acts as a tool for instructors, those with ADHD, and much more.
8. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during a Pilates class?
Getting stuck in the fuzzy straps – at the time I was working in a gym setting and went into the Pilates room during a break to hang from the fuzzies. I somehow got stuck in the fuzzies and had no idea how I was going to get out-luckily I had my cellphone in reach and I was able to call the front desk for help.
9. If you were to give just one reason about why Pilates is awesome (not just for ADHD, but overall) what would it be?
It changes your life for the better. Pilates is a lifestyle – not just exercise – but a way of life. Freedom from within that radiates out.
You can learn more about Laura’s course Pilates & ADHD on her website (click here) or purchase her manual to get practical recommendations on how to use Pilates to improve ADHD symptoms (for Pilates professionals and students.)
But for right now spend 5 seconds saying “Hi” to Laura in the comments below or asking her any questions. She will be glad to answer them!