Have you tried to fix your posture by strengthening and stretching muscles or by adjusting the spine or by consciously trying to correct your posture but you still have the same posture as before? And do you wonder why you can’t change your posture?Read More
My clients often tell me that their bodies are so stiff that they can't do certain activities well.
What is really stiff? What is really limiting your abilities? "Stiff" bodies? Or maybe "stiff" brains?
Imagine that you believe that there is only one road to your home. You drive the same road everyday to go to some places. The road obviously gets used a lot as it's the only choice and starts to get worn out. At some point, the road requires new paving or fix. Once it's fixed, you start driving the same road. The road condition is improved, but wear and tear is a matter of time as it's the only road that you believe is available. In this situation, you're stuck with this road and you don't have alternatives.
Imagine that now several new roads added. You now have several options. You're no longer stuck with the the same old road to your home.
How does this story apply to bodies and brains? As we develop, we form habits. Habits allow us to do things automatically without thinking, which is a very good thing. Without habits, it'd take a very long time to do even very simple daily tasks such as brushing teeth or getting dressed. However, the fact habits "hide" from our consciousness eliminates different ways of acting (thinking, sensing, moving, and sensing). In other words, habits can limit ourselves to narrow range of possibilities. If there's only one road to your home, you won't have to think much to get home. It's efficient, but very limiting. When it comes to movement, we similarly create movement habits for the same reason. We tend to use the same pathway or movements repeatedly because of our movement habits. In a way, we (our brains) only see one road or a habitual movement path).
What really limits our abilities is "stiff" brains. When our brains become "stiff", we limit ourselves/our abilities to only a small portion of our full potential or our habits, which in turn influences how we use our bodies so our bodies become "stiff". Fixing bodies/structures is like paving the old road so we can get back on the same road again (the same old habitual pathway). We still have only one choice. We're still limited to what we already know or habits. We can't truly overcome difficulties whether they are physical, intellectual, or psychological until we learn to make our brains more flexible, which would mean that we learn to expand our choices and act more freely without compulsion.
The Feldenkrais Method focuses on improving our awareness through movement to expand our options (thinking, sensing, moving, and feeling) and move beyond our habits, which means that our brains become more flexible.
"What I'm after isn't flexible bodies, but flexible brains." - Moshe Feldenkrais
When you go to exercise/fitness classes, you would expect your instructor to show you how to do each exercise/movement correctly step by step, right? What if your instructor wouldn't show you how to do exercises correctly? In Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement classes, teachers guide students only verbally through a sequence of movements in a way that they are encouraged to explore and experiment many options of movements instead of being instructed to move only specific ways. We also don't tell our students that they SHOULD move this way or that way, or this is the CORRECT way of moving. Instead, we invite our students to pay attention to sensations in their bodies to notice the way they use their bodies habitually and non-habitually. In other words, we help our students to focus on their own kinesthetic experiences, which is subjective.
So, what are the benefits of avoiding specific instructions and encouraging exploration/experimentation?
One size won't fit all. If we observe 10 different people's body and movements (e.g., walking), we will have 10 different body structures and 10 different movements. A movement that feels good for one person may not feel good for another person. If we assume there's only one correct movement that fits everyone, then we try to force ourselves to fit the idea, which may not work for you. But, if you start to pay attention to your own kinesthetic sensation while exploring movements, you can probably find what works and what doesn't.
Your kinesthetic experience from one exercise/movement is different from others. If I as an instructor/teacher showed an exercise to my students step by step and told them exactly how they should move, I'm imposing my idea on my students. What would happen is that they would only focus on trying to make their movement look exactly like my movement. At that moment, they disengage themselves from their kinesthetic experience. In my experience, this is when people get hurt in many exercise/fitness classes because they are busy forcing their body to move like someone else's, which may not be right and not paying attention to their own sensation.
After one class (Feldenkrais pelvic clock lesson) I taught to a group of people, I asked them to share what they experienced from the lesson. One student said that he noticed how he was using his hips and why he felt off balance when he squatted. Another person said that she noticed how she liked using back instead of hips. I really don't know what people will experience from each lesson. I can't expect everyone will have the same experience as I did from the same lesson. But, if I showed people how to do each movement specifically and asked them to repeat what I did, I could potentially take away all kinds of different experiences and learning they would otherwise get.
It may be difficult and uncomfortable at first not to have someone show you exercises/movements step by step, but if you let go of that idea and start to "play" with movements and pay attention to how you feel, I can guarantee that exercise/movement will become a lot more enjoyable and fun. And, you can find more comfortable movements.
To learn about Awareness Through Movement class:
There's a saying "practice makes perfect." What's involved in practice that leads to "perfect?"
When we start learning any skill, we don't really know what's perfect as we haven't had any kinesthetic experience that we can make comparison to, though we may have a rough idea where we want to go. As we try once, and twice, and three times, we start to accumulate experience and constantly receive feedback and make adjustments to refine our skills. When our movements didn't feel quite right, we would know based on our previous experience.
Mistakes provide feedback we need in order to make adjustments for the following attempt so we can get closer to our goal, ONLY IF we pay attention to the mistakes we just made. Otherwise, we're more likely to make the same mistakes without much improvements. This is why some people say "perfect practice makes perfect." Just simply repeating movements isn't necessarily going to guarantee improvements. In fact, you may become good at unwanted skills, which now become your new habit.
Fundamentals of motor learning can always be found when observing babies and kids. My 9 month old son recently learned to pull himself up to stand. He was very excited to check out completely different views from standing. He, however, didn't know how to get back down to the floor. He lost his balance and fell backwards and hit his head on the floor. That was a very hard and painful lesson for him. He was still curious about standing up so he stood up while holding onto the couch. After a few minutes, he quickly recalled the painful event and was trying to figure out a way to get down to the floor without hitting his head against floor. He slowly reached one hand towards the floor with the other hand on the couch. Finally he was able to put one hand on the floor and lowered himself down without falling! He's learned how to get down to the floor from standing from his mistake.
Mistakes are necessary for improvements. The word "mistake" is often perceived as having a negative meaning, but if it weren't for mistakes, we wouldn't even know what is "right." When I work with my clients, I always encourage people to make mistakes and help them recognize what makes certain movements/postures a mistake and what makes them a correct one for them. We all make lots of mistakes, but mistakes are what get us closer to our goal! If we make mistakes, we might as well make it fun! Come join my weekly Awareness Through Movement classes to make mistakes in a playful environment!
Whether you're training movement for rehab or athletic performance, moving with "attention" and "intention" makes a huge difference in terms of motor learning. For example, doing an shoulder raise exercise with a weight or elastic tubing will help strengthen shoulder muscles as resistance and gravity place physiological demands on the muscles. However, strength gain may not carry over to actual functional tasks such as reaching arm overhead to put a dish on a top shelf, changing a light bulb, or any overhead throwing, which means there's no motor learning.
Exercising just for the sake of strengthening or stretching muscles will not require much attention of the brain. There won't be much learning without the engagement of the brain. Adding an "intention" for movement/exercise will add a meaning and purpose to movement, and this will grab the brain's attention. Here are examples. When boxers do shadow boxing, they have clear intention of every movement, that is fighting against an imaginary person. During Aikido practice, an attacker has a clear intention when he/she is grabbing the opponent's wrist, that is to keep him/her from reaching for their weapon. This intention organizes the bodies to create movement.
You wouldn't exercise for no reason, would you? You probably exercise to improve your functions. So, think about what specific function you're trying to improve with each exercise. Once you know that, you visualize a specific function while performing each movement.
In order to make real improvements that will last for a long time we will need to change how we move. When we change how we move, we'll start to place demands on our bodies differently so we'll start to use muscles that we didn't used to, which then over time will become stronger and more flexible. When you move with intention, you will pay more attention to your movement, and your movement becomes much more purposeful and meaningful, which will make your exercise much more effective. Strength gain is given when you place demands on your bodies, but motor learning (changing movement habits) isn't without attention. Next time you work out or practice movements, think about what specific function you are trying to improve with each exercise and practice moving with attention and intention.
You probably heard about "CORE muscles." The word "Core" became a buzz word in fitness and physical therapy about 15 years ago, and is still a popular concept. It's become so popular that core concept is often applied without much relevance. It's commonly assumed that low back pain is caused by weak core muscles, thus strengthening core muscles fixes back pain; poor posture indicates weak core muscles, thus strengthening core muscles improves/corrects posture. However, no research shows such relationships. Weak core muscles DO NOT cause low back pain. Weak core muscles DO NOT cause poor posture. Yet, these misconceptions still exists.
So, is core strengthening a good thing or bad thing? It depends. I mean, it depends on functional contexts. First, you need to know what core is and what it does. Without going into anatomical details, I will simply tell you that core refers to muscles around the trunk and it mobilizes and stabilizes trunk. Core strength has nothing to do with back pain or posture. They are whole different topics. With these things in mind, if you're strengthening your core as you preparing for your daily tasks or sports requiring heaving lifting, which will load the spine, core strengthening is very relevant. How you train your core muscles also makes a difference. You have to train your core muscles in a way they are used during functional activities. In other words, doing 1,000 abdominal crunches a day may not give you functional improvements, though you may get 6 packs. Thus, functional contexts do matter. Strengthening muscles in wrong contexts is sort of like trying to eat soup with a fork instead of a spoon.
Besides the point I made above, I noticed a trend of holding core muscles all the time in many people. Maybe at one point, they learned this idea to resolve their back pain, and holding core muscles has eventually become their habit, meaning out of their consciousness. This trend is much more common than you would think. And this trend has negative consequences. First, this constant abdominal contraction inhibits diaphragm, which is the primary breathing muscle. Thus, it affects breathing quality. Consequently, the demand for other breathing muscles increases, which are intercostal muscles (muscles between ribs) and scalene muscle (one of neck muscles). These breathing mechanisms are not as efficient as the primary breathing mechanism. This may sound strange, but habitual core contraction can lead to increased neck and shoulder strain. When I work with clients who are complaining of neck or shoulder pain, I often end up working with legs, as how they use their legs influence how they use their trunk. After all, everything is all connected.
Over the years I have come across situations where I taught my clients different movement patterns as a supposedly better alternative to their habitual movement patterns, somehow those new movement patterns never stuck to them. One day out of blue they started adapting and using the new movement patterns automatically. I always wondered why that might have occurred. I wondered if they didn't do their "homework," so they didn't adapt.
One day I was playing with my 7 month old son. He could roll over pretty well, but couldn't still pull himself forward on the floor, so I put a few toys on the floor, thinking he would try to reach for them and maybe would pull himself forward. He didn't care enough to even attempt to reach. Then, he started crying because he was getting hungry. So I went to grab a bottle and he was staring at the bottle with such excitement. As soon as I put the bottle on the floor, he quickly rolled over and started pulling himself forward so desperately. He just learned army crawl! Just like his father, he LOVES FOOD. Food is very important for him, more than anything it seems. Food draws 100% of his nervous system's attention. His nervous system organizes movement patterns to allow him to accomplish his goal, that is to get to food and eat.
That's made me think about my clients who adapt to new patterns fast and those who don't. I think this has a lot to do with whether those movement patterns are perceived as meaningful and salient by the nervous system. When I say nervous system, I'm talking about what's happening at subconscious level. I think this is why changing habits is so difficult as it requires a shift at subconscious level, or very strong will power. And, this is why it's so important to think about functional contexts and meaning around particular movements you're practicing, not just repeating the same movement mindlessly.
What does creativity have to do with movement habits?
Before I start discussing this topic, let's look at definition of the words "creativity" and "habit"
Creativity: "The ability to make new things or think of new ideas." (merriam-webster.com)
Habit: "A usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way." (merriam-webster.com)
Do you see any relationships between two words? I define creativity as the ability to do something you already know in a different way. When it comes to movement, there are infinite ways of moving and many ways to get to the same point. Movement habits "hide" all other possibilities and make them invisible as if such movement options don't exist. Therefore, we repeat the same movement patterns over and over, which could potentially create some problems. Creativity in relation to movement habits is about finding all those "hidden" movement options. The process of finding new ways of moving will require you to get out of your habitual way of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking, or you will not find them.
Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons are precisely structured to help you discover new ways of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking. As a result of this process, you will become more creative and will be ably to act more freely.
Check out my Awareness Through Movement Class to enhance your creativity!
Now imagine yourself on a peaceful beach, relaxing and enjoying a drink. Next imagine yourself being chased by a police car for whatever reasons.
Have you noticed any changes in muscle tone and breathing? Imagining actions involves the brain activities which will produce physiological changes such as changes in heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, etc. Try this: Close your eyes and imagine moving your right big toe up and down without actually moving your big toe. Notice whether you moved your eyes toward your right big toe. Even though you didn't move your right big toe, your brain planned a motor action the same was it would to actually move it. In a way, imagining to doing movements is not that much different from actually doing the movements as far as brain activities are concerned.
The power of imagination has practical applications. People with chronic pain typically have sensitized nervous system, which means it has a lower threshold for pain, and more easily produce pain. In those people, pain is often associated with movement. The brain can produce pain experience regardless of any actual tissue damage, which is commonly the case for people with chronic pain. In fact, in more serious cases just imagining to do certain movements associated with pain can actually produce pain even without any movements. However, imagining to do those movements can be used therapeutically to desensitize the nervous system and start to dissociate pain with those particular movements. Over time as the nervous system becomes less sensitized, a pain threshold will increase, allowing them to move more. This is one strategy used to get people out of chronic pain cycle. Very useful.
The power of imagination is also helpful to improve physical skills. In fact, many performance artists, martial artists, and athletes utilize this strategy. I also use this strategy quite often to practice Aikido or sports. It's also used in the Feldenkrais Method to enhance learning. From my own experience, I must tell you that it really works. It's sometimes more effective than actually doing movements. Next time you practice some skills, try doing whatever movements you're practicing just in your imagination. See if it helps you learn faster.
Autenticity: "The quality of being real or true" (www.dictionary.cambridge.org).
What do being authentic and acting authentically mean to you?? As I'm working with clients, they frequently ask me things like: "am I doing this movement correctly? How am I doing?" My response is usually this: "what do you think? Why don't you tell how you feel you are doing?" Then, many say "I don't know. You tell me because you are an expert."
Why do you care how you move? How do you know you're moving or sitting incorrectly? Is it because some experts told you so?? No one can feel your body except you. No one can tell whether one movement is comfortable for you or not. Just because one particular movement feels good for one person, that doesn't mean the same movement would feel great for everyone. We are all different and unique.
"The general tendency toward social improvement in our day has led directly to a disregard, rising to neglect, for the human material of which society is built. The fault lies not in the goal itself but in the fact that individuals, rightly or wrongly, tend to identify their self-images with their value to society. Like a man trying to force a square peg into peculiarities by alienating himself from his inherent needs. He strains to fit himself into the round hole that he now actively desires to fill, for if he fails in this, his value will be so diminished in his own eyes as to discourage further initiative." - Moshe Feldenkrais
We tend to act in accordance with our society and act to satisfy society's needs. As we start to do that, we start to lose spontaneity and authenticity. This is why we get so uncomfortable when someone doesn't us how we're doing, whether we're doing things correctly or not. We become anxious because we tend to identify our self-images with our value to society.
This is one of the several reasons why I don't advocate a corrective exercise approach. In my opinion, a corrective exercise approach only reinforces the same mindset and robs authenticity and spontaneity. Next time you exercise or do any movement practice, pay attention to how you feel. Play with movements. Try to move a little differently each time and notice how a slight change in movement changes how your body feels. You will know what feels good or bad. If it feels good, then that's probably a correct movement for you. When you start to move more authentically and naturally, you will start to express yourself more authentically as well. It feels good to be authentic!
Breathing has always been considered as an important aspect of movements in most martial arts as well as Yoga, Zen meditation, Feldenkrais Method, and more. The importance of breathing has been emphasized in today's orthopedic physical therapy and fitness training as well. As I started studying Feldenkrais Method, I've started paying much more attention to breathing while I'm moving as well as observing my clients moving. I've realized that the state of breathing and the quality of breathing can tell you a lot about the quality of movement. Breathing changes according to the state of the nervous system. Stress changes breathing. Just imagine that you are about to propose your girlfriend for marriage. Or imagine that a spider (if you hate spiders) suddenly falling in front of your face from the ceiling. Did that change your breathing?? When the nervous system perceives fear/anxiety, it affects breathing. Unfamiliar movements and movements related to past physical trauma can often induce fear/anxiety to the nervous system even though you may not be aware of that. Thus, when you learn a new movement/skill (unfamiliar), your breathing is likely to change (mostly likely holding a breath) to a certain degree. The more unfamiliar and complex a movement is, the more likely breathing will be affected. For this reason as a movement educator, I always observe my clients' breathing quality as it is one of the most important movement qualities. Interestingly enough, you can influence movement quality by changing breathing quality. Try filling up your lunges with air and hold your breath while rotating your body. Note how far you can turn your body. Next try exhaling slowly while turning your body. Notice how far you can turn your body this time. Any difference? You'll be amazed how much you can improve your movement quality by improving your breathing quality. Check out Awareness Through Movement classes and Movement Re-education sessions to improve your breathing and movement quality.
Our brain has "maps" that represent parts of our body for movement and sensation. These brain maps are constantly updated when we move our bodies. The parts that tend to be used more frequently have a larger representation on the brain maps. Maps are also unique for each individual. For example, pianists have much larger representation of fingers than most people. Likewise the parts that are not often used have smaller representation.
So what does that mean? It means that movement clarifies brain maps. Updated and accurate body maps mean good kinesthetic awareness. The body parts that have smaller representation on the maps tend to have less clear sensation. It's hard to feel/sense those parts. How clearly can you sense your low back one vertebrae by one vertebrae vs individual fingers, with your eyes closed? For most people, sensation on low back is not that clear.
Our brain relies on these maps for movement. If your brain maps are outdated and inaccurate, what you're actually doing may be very different from what you think you're doing. Every time I have my clients notice such mismatch between actuality and their thought, they are so amazed. Most people cannot feel/sense the shape of their spine accurately. Sometimes they sense the opposite of what they are actually doing. For example, when I ask people whether their lumbar spine is arched or rounded, they tell me that it's rounded when it's actually arched. Try this: "Close your eyes and raise your shoulders out to side to shoulder height so your arms are parallel to the floor. Open your eyes to confirm whether your perception was accurate or not."
This is why I focus on improving client's kinesthetic awareness so movement becomes more precise. Don't you want to have an accurate road map or updated GPS when you go on a road trip?? In both Awareness Through Movement classes and one-on on movement re-education sessions, I draw your attention to various parts of your body while you're engaged in movements. This process clarifies your body maps so actuality and what you're doing become much much closer. As Moshe Feldenkrais said, "If you know what you're doing, you can do what you want."
Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement® (ATM) consists of verbally directed movement sequences presented primarily to groups. In ATM lessons, people engage in precisely structured movement exploration that involve, thinking, sensing, moving, and imagining. Many are based on developmental movements and ordinary functional activities. Some are based on more abstract explorations of joint, muscle, and postural relationships. The lessons consist of comfortable, easy movements that gradually evolve into movements of greater range and complexity. (www.feldenkrais.com)
One of many things the Feldenkrais Method emphasizes is to improve awareness by helping people become aware of their habits as well as new ways of moving, sensing, feeling, and thinking while you're engaged in various movements, thus the name Awareness Through Movement. I will share one of my favorite quotes from my Feldenkrais trainer:
"Habits are bricks. Repetition is the cement between the bricks. The more repetition of habit, the more solid the wall. If you keep repeating the habit, it becomes solidified causing pain, rigidity, depression, etc. Awareness creates doors and windows in which you can move over, under or thru that blockage."
Awareness Through Movement lessons are designed to create those doors and windows and guide you discover and open them. When you those doors and windows, whole new possibilities start emerging. You will discover a lot more than more efficient movements, more comfort, reduced pain. Words are just words, and can't give you such kinesthetic experience. The only way to truly understand the effects of this work is to actually experience it. I encourage you to check out local Awareness Through Movement classes. Please also check out my classes in Everett, WA.
Let me share why i care so much about movement. Just as a side note, the only thing I care just as much, if not more is food. I can literally talk/think about food all day. Oh, I didn't forget about my family, of course not. They are the number 1!
Anyway, back to the main topic. I entered a healthcare/fitness profession because I wanted to help people just like most other people. My goal/mission as a movement educator/therapist is just one simple thing: To help people become happier. If my clients are happier at the end of session than when they came, I know I've done something good. I understand there are many ways to do that, but why movement?? I believe movement is essential to our life. Everything we do has something to do with movement. When I say movement, I don't mean exercise. Without movement babies would not be able to recognize his own body and how he relates to the world. Movement is directly related to our life. We would not be able to eat without moving. We would not be able to laugh without moving. We would not be able to cry without moving. We would not be able to breathe without moving, so we would be dead without movement. Because it has such a direct influence on our life, it provides an entry point for possibilities for changes, for better or worse. I definitely try to take an advantage of this entry point to make a positive shift for myself and my clients. So let's move better, feel better, and live happier!
I have noticed that many people including myself have hard time moving slowly when we exercise. I so often have to remind my clients to slow their movement down many times. I must admit that I had very very hard time to do that. It took me a long time to learn that.
I used to hate walking because it was too slow and boring. I used to prefer running to walking. In the last few years I've learned the benefits of moving more slowly. When we move fast, we access movement patterns that have been used many times, called habitual movement patterns. We use the sub-conscious part of our brain, which responds very fast. This is useful when we have to move quickly during emergency situations. However, when we're learning new movement patterns, we have to rely on different parts of our brain, conscious part of the brain, which acts much more slowly. In order to allow us to access this part of the brain, we need to move much much more slowly. If we move slowly, we won't bypass our sub-conscious part of the brain and inhibit habitual patterns. This is one of the key principles in my movement re-education. When someone keeps hurting because of their habitual movement patterns, they need to learn how to move differently. If they try to move fast when learning to move in a different way, their habitual movement patterns keep interfering. This is why it's a common practice for Tai Chi and Feldenkrais Method to move very slowly so they can pay attention to how they are moving and they can adjust their movements continuously. I must tell you that this practice has completely changed the way I move and the way I work with my clients. I've learned so much about how I move and definitely improved my movement quality. By the way, the same mechanism applies to thinking, feeling, and sensing. How we emotionally or intellectually react works much like our movements. To break your habits, you'll need to SLOW DOWN.
Click HERE for the description of the method by Feldenkrais.com.
You probably still have no idea what Feldenkrais Method is about after reading the description. Let me share my experience. About 6 years ago I was getting a bit frustrated at work as patients kept returning to us for similar problems (e.g., shoulder impingement, low back pain, neck pain, patello-femoral knee syndrome, etc). I thought we did a pretty good job of teaching our patients about how to strengthen/stretch some muscles to solve their problems, yet they returned to us after a year maybe 2 years. I thought I "fixed" the problems by strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles to restore their imbalance, but they apparently didn't get "fixed." This observation made me very curious as to what's really the root of their problems. Upon my research I found Feldenkrais Method several times. The first time I saw the name, I didn't pay much attention. After having seen the name several times, I had to do more research about it. I read his books and read some articles, but I still didn't know what it was. The only thing I knew was it had something to do with changing habits. I thought habitual way of moving/using ourselves was the root of many problems my patients had. One day I saw a weekend Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement workshop, and I decided to attend to experience it for myself. My first experience was "Wow!! I don't feel pain anywhere in my body!!" I always had some pain but I was so used to having pain that I forgot I had pain until my pain was gone. I felt much taller and my body felt so much lighter and felt as if the gravity decreased. The effect after my very first Awareness Through Movement lesson was so profound. During the lesson I discovered how one body part connected to another body part and how they could work together to decrease stress on one part and distribute it to the whole body. As a result, it felt so much easier to move. I also discovered my movement habits, which of course I wasn't aware of until then. My movement habits just like the majority of other people were such that I wasn't distributing work very well throughout my whole body. At this moment I knew I found what I have been searching for. This really allows us to discover the root of many problems (physical as well as psychological) we may be having and also discover new options so we don't get stuck in our habits. Habits are useful as long as you know they are. However, habits can sometimes create problems when we are not aware of them. As Moshe Feldenkrais (the creator of Feldenkrais Method) said, "if you know what you are doing, you can do what you want."
I often get comments from my clients that I have a "perfect posture." I always ask them what the "perfect posture" means, and many say it's perfectly straight. So, straight posture=good posture?? From a perspective of Feldenkrais Method it is a place from which you can initiate action in any direction with minimal preparation. You're basically ready to move any direction from ideal posture. You're not holding tension and staying rigid. I think people tend to confuse posture with position. Position is static. Posture is dynamic. Posture is action. Ideal posture should allow you to move more responsively. In contrast, if you're rigid and holding yourself as straight as you can, you may appear to have a good posture, but you won't be able to move as quickly. Not only that, you are straining muscles as you're making a lot of effort to maintain such a state. Masters of Tai Chi or Aikido all demonstrate great posture if you watch them. They're ready for actions. They are not tense. As a general rule, a good posture should never feel uncomfortable or tiring. Awareness Through Movement class will give you an experience of what it feels to have "good posture" that feels natural and authentic.
Effort is generally encouraged in our culture. No pain no gain mindset is still prevalent in health/fitness industry. More effort doesn't necessarily result in more gains when it comes to rehab. The reason for this is that trying harder will only exaggerate your habitual movement patterns. If habitual movement patterns are contributing to repetitive stress injuries because of lack of movement variability, then increasing effort by increasing resistance or speed probably won't solve their problem(s). Instead, when you reduce effort, you'll have a much better chance of improving in your movement ability as less effort allows the nervous system to recognize patterns of movement and learn more efficient movements. This is why Feldenkrais Method, Tai Chi, Aikido all emphasize reduction of effort.
If you ever played a team sport, you know how important it is that each player contributes to a game to make a great team, right? Even you have a very talented player on your team, it's very unlikely that your team will be good if only that one player works hard on the field/court. This same principle applies to our movements. For example, I worked with many clients with neck pain. They had neck pain when they looked up or turned their head to look behind. Most of the time they were mostly using their neck to orient head with very little movement in other parts of their body like mid back, shoulders/shoulder blades, ribs, hips, etc. The neck was the only player contributing to the work, sort of, while other players were hanging out and watching the neck doing all hard work. No wonder the neck got sore!! Neck pain, low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, you name it, but it's very common that people violate the team play principle. This is one of many principles taught in Feldenkrais Method & Martial Arts (Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido, Judo, etc). Check out my Awareness Through Movement classes & one-on-one Movement Re-education session to work on your "Team Play" skill!
Over the years I've observed how someone's physical state affects their psychological/emotional state. When someone's mobility is compromised due to illness/injury and they become bed bound, pretty quickly their cognitive function seems to decline from my observation. It does make sense from a neuroscience perspective because of all activities that take place in the brain when planning and executing motor actions. I also noticed that people who have very sharp cognition tend to be physically active. It makes sense why we can usually have better focus after exercising. As Moshe Feldenkrais said, "Movement is life; without movement life is unthinkable." Let's get moving!