Gil Hedley’s Foreword to Centered, Second edition by Madeline Black is reproduced here in full. It is a well informed and enthusiastic appreciation of Madeline’s life’s work as it is presented in her book.
‘Madeline Black’s monumental accomplishment in this book is to detail the principles and practices for ‘organizing the body.’ She does so through organizing and optimizing human movement. She has mastered no small task, and has built her store of wisdom into these pages. Black is a synthetic thinker, and in her project she deploys all the tools and wisdom of her comprehensive background in body-reading, Pilates technique, kinesiology, movement theory, and the internal sensibilities of a person who has deeply connected to her own body through dance, sport, Pilates practice, and the intense self-exploration excellence demands both to excel in her arts and to recover from the insults of injury.
Centered is a book about movement, organized around the structure of the human form. It is a ‘bottom up’ story that begins with the feet, and works its way up to the top, on the conviction that the organization of the body depends first upon its foundations, and everything that follows upon that. Madeline is keen to facilitate in her clients a moving, rather than a static, ‘center’. Life is on the move, and a centered life returns to balance and alignment with ease in the midst of movement. For those who would study her methods, Black creates in each chapter a set of helpful touch-points to ground and expand on the structures being studied. She provides moments devoted to contemplative awareness, practitioner notes, client stories, visual and palpation assessments, kinesiological tests, as well as video links to see those tests in action. All of this content serves to support the goals of her readers ultimately to apply in service of their clients and themselves the detailed information Black offers with regard to joint mechanics, kinematics, and anatomy. Black has tackled a complex subject. Readers must manifest their own commitment to study this text and the many rewards offered within it. The beauty of the photography and illustrations, and the many side notes and tips will draw you in further. There is also a gentleness to Madeline’s approach that infuses the weight of intellectual information. Micromovements are as essential as macro movements. Black supplants the worn “pain means gain” philosophy with the ‘pleasure barometer’. ‘Remember,’ she says, ‘while enhancing movement using hands-on skills, use the pleasure barometer, an emotional response of joy rather than suffering.’ Black understands that when clients come to heal themselves of their pain, moving towards pleasure in movement is a powerful guide. The center may pass through dark storms, but the practitioner of these techniques can find their way back to the light of day, greater ease, balance and recovered function.
Personally, I have witnessed Madeline teaching large crowds of enthralled Pilates practitioners, studied alongside her in the anatomy laboratories, and co-presented with her as well. I have seen her intense curiosity in action! In every instance Madeline’s passion for her subject, mastery of her broad skill-set, and concern to serve her fellow humanity shine. To the reader, Enjoy!’
Gil Hedley PhD, October 2021
Colorado Springs, CO, USA