“Think outside the box” is a saying that encourages us to go beyond the expected parameters and to challenge ourselves with something new – to take risks. But working with the box is an important first step to understanding what you are trying to go beyond. Within structure creativity and progress can be realized.
In Pilates the box is a concept used to aide in aligning the body; it is an imaginary line from shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip creating a level horizontal carriage as well as creating a stacked relationship of the hips over the shoulders, thus creating a ‘box’. There is also a box within the box, the inner box created by the relationship of the low ribs and the top of the pelvis which helps to inform us as to whether or not we are lifting up through the powerhouse and encouraging space in the waist and spinal elongation. We work strongly from our center (in Pilates the Powerhouse) and work with an awareness of maintaining the box, stretching out into our periphery while holding strong in the center. Next workout, think about the corners of your box and pulling them in to find greater stability, and stretching them out to provide more flexibility.
The box is not only useful in Pilates but in all movement systems including yoga. When we work in yoga with asana we are not just trying to work more strongly and flexibly, but to create a greater alignment so that energy can flow more freely through the chakra system. For example, in Virabhadrasa I (Warrior 1) the body is aligned with the shoulders and hips pointing in the same direction (facing the front of the mat) and squarely aligned, as through arising out of the earth. Contrast that to Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) where the box alignment is parallel to the long edges of the mat, the hips are opening in opposition, and the arms and legs are reaching forward and back energized from the center. Often students confuse the positions especially in Virabhadrasana II where the torso is often turned toward the front arm. Next class, set your feet for this asana, the your hips and shoulders, and finally stretch your arms away from your heart and turn your gaze!
Working with awareness of the box is a great addition to your alignment as you may discover asymmetries in your hips, shoulders, ribs… and over time working with patience you can guide your body back into better balance.