Mina van Brunschot is a Restorative Exercise Specialist, Pilates Instructor, and Movements Educator working in Belgium and the Netherlands. I first met Mina at a 12-Hr Psoas Workshop conducted in the Netherlands in 2009. Mina has gone on to take many of my other workshops and completed my Application Course for Professionals in 2010. She introduced me to her Pilate colleagues, helped me locate studios, and sponsored private sessions for her community in Amsterdam. Mina also handles my books and CDs for local distribution and continues offering invaluable help in building my outstanding psoas community in the Netherlands. As a functional-based educator engaging in practical movements that provide quick and measurable results, Mina has just begun to dip her toes into the more soulful aspects of the psoas. Her strength and honesty in answering my questions and revealing her personal process is deeply moving and very appreciated.
Mina, please tell our readers a little about how and why you became a restorative exercise specialist. How has your journey shifted between its start and now?
It all started 18 years ago when I felt “burned-out” and depressed. I decided to try Pilates. During my first class I instantly felt better! I was so excited by the results that I signed up and completed my certification in Classical Pilates. I wanted to “spread the word.” I began traveling the world attending Pilates courses and Fitness conferences. While a Pilates Instructor, I read an article in a fitness magazine about Katy Bowman’s alignment principles. It peaked my interest. However, it was not until I listened to the podcast interview on the Core Awareness website with Liz Koch and Katy Bowman that I felt steered towards Katy’s trainings. When I started reading Katy’s blog, I finally found the answers to questions that seemed unanswerable within my Pilates bubble. In 2011, I became certified in Katy Bowman’s training as a Restorative Exercise Specialist. I am now celebrating my 10th anniversary teaching movement.
You also own a pop-up business distributing books, exercise tools, and a variety of support for alignment and health. What got you started?
I have lived most of my life in the Flemish-Dutch speaking part of Belgium. Here in Neerpelt, I have my studio, alignmentLAB. In addition to teaching, I offer my clients and colleagues a variety of tools, materials, and books that I love. I really like to play shopkeeper: boxing up the products and sending them off. I know people really appreciate these goodies!
I sell educational and functional tools for psoas explorations, Pilates, Yoga, and Restorative Exercise. This includes balls in many sizes and densities, rollers, straps, and proprioceptive tools with soft or firm spikes. It also includes my favorite books, CDs, and DVD’s by authors such as Liz Koch and Katy Bowman. Many of the tools available on my website www.alignmentlab.eu including the Squatty Potty®, Correct Toes®, Alignment Socks®, and the Back Vitalizer™ pillow help people get more of their movement during their day, without any special planning or time wasted.
Please elaborate on your profession. Explain to our readers what you focus on and why it is important?
I love helping people understand how they can best support the self-healing properties of their own “bodily vessel.” My current level of knowledge allows me to teach restorative exercises, lifestyle changes, and body awareness. I focus on movements that are often missing from our modern day lives. Currently, most people are experiencing an unprecedented daily dose of sitting. Sitting in cars and public transportation, on a bike, at a desk, fitness equipment, at the dinner table, during meetings, and in waiting rooms. Sitting in and of itself is not the actual problem because everyone needs rest. It is the chronic sitting position that contributes to so many physical ailments. First and foremost I teach my clients to sit differently, move more, and to move in varied ways while they are at work, home, play, or even while asleep! Although all movement is good, adding micro and varied movements can increase your overall functioning that makes you feel more alive. Clients tell me they need less physical therapy, osteopathy, and even insoles! Their sleep improves, they feel alive, pelvic issues and joint aches lessen, and even disappear. Understanding the importance of movement empowers my clients and improves their self-care. I get goosebumps when someone tells me: “I felt this ache coming up, but now I know how to take care of myself and the ache goes away.”
How & why has the psoas played an important part in your professional and personal life?
I first learned about the psoas while reading The Psoas Book. It had puzzled me why I could not do a Pilates roll-up without huffing and puffing or using momentum even though I had picture perfect abdominal muscles. Reading the book helped confirm the complexity of the psoas. I knew deep down that the psoas had to be much more than a mere hip flexor. My first psoas “release” and accompanying emotional breakdown was during a prone Pilates exercise. After this experience I felt empowered to make some important life-changing decisions. I attended Liz’s Core Awareness Application Course for professionals in Langeland, Denmark and started to introduce psoas explorations into my own classes and private sessions.
What have you gained from working with Liz Koch’s approach to the psoas?
My father died of Alzheimer’s symptoms in 2005. Every year about a week before the date of his death, I would get anxious and feel depressed. When I finally realized how significant this date was, I decided to consciously treat myself to a holiday retreat. The first time I did was in 2010. On my way back from the USA, I planned a layover in Denmark where I attended the week long Application Course on Langeland island at a retreat setting. It was a beautiful location: the food was lovely, the company great, and the learning experience deep. I think I relaxed completely for the first time in many years. Getting in touch with my psoas and listening to my frazzled nervous system was quite an experience! I remember how light my body felt when I got on the plane to go home. It took a few more workshops to take down some of the barriers of my past trauma. I learned a great deal about myself: the way I respond to stress and how to support myself when I sense a flight or freeze response. I have continued to explore my psoas and doing so helps me find myself, my voice, and my body. This past year I spent an amazing weekend with Liz and Anna Verwaal at the Stalking Wild Psoas Womb To World workshop. I highly recommend this collaboration as they explore how profoundly our prenatal and perinatal experience influences our personal lives.
I am particularly impressed by the way Liz can read a person’s psoas. At first, I felt disbelief and maybe even some skepticism. I definitely could not see myself sensing other people’s emotions. However, over time I have become more available. I sometimes get a buzzing sensation deep down in my belly when I am working with a client. I can feel their sadness, fear, or numbness. During the Application Course (and really all of her courses), Liz demonstrated how she is moved by the core psoas expression, allowing her deep belly brain to emerge. I remember being surprised when one participant commented after watching the demonstration, saying: “it was as if you were having a pleasurable experience” because what I had just seen was a raw, fearful expression and I wanted to immediately comfort and console her. I now recognize that what I call my innate instant-fix-it reflex, an act of doing or telling something to help another, is actually my sympathetic nervous system’s knee-jerk reaction to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. Knowing this helps me be more present to myself and to allow another person to just “be.” My psoas, or belly brain, has become a means for sensing the field of my clients. Liz’s approach has given me new insights about myself, nourishing my personal growth and increasing my self-knowledge.