Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

I have been fortunate enough to have met and known many wonderful people in my life.  There are many kind people who always care about others.  As I have worked with many clients, I have noticed that so many people are too busy to pay attention to their bodies while they take care of others.  Our bodies are very honest.  When we're stressed, tension in our muscles changes.  Even if we are not aware of stress, stress manifests itself as muscular tension.

Although I'm a movement educator/therapist and help people move better, I'm indirectly influencing clients' mind.  Mind and Body are two sides of the same coin.  They constantly influence each other.  Our body is a mirror that shows the state of our mind, or a container for our mind, sort of.  If we start to pay close attention to our bodies, which is ourselves, we can begin to notice how hard some parts of ourselves are working and discover some parts of ourselves that we didn't know that they existed.  

It's wonderful if you're a kind person who cares about other people.  But, are you paying attention to yourself with the same kindness?  If you haven't, please make some time to get to know yourself better and take care of yourself.  Awareness Through Movement classes will give you the opportunity to observe and learn about yourself deeply.  You will learn where you carry tension and how you use habitually your bodies, and will learn new ways of using yourself to carry day to day activities.  

Balance

I truly believe in a holistic health/wellness approach.  Healthy eating habits, healthy sleeping habits, healthy exercise habits, and healthy social life.  I think it's all about balance.  Too much of good food or too much exercise can be a bad thing, just as too little of those things can be a bad thing as well.  You can't be healthy physically if your mind is not healthy.  

There is an old Japanese saying: "Yamaiwa kikara," meaning illness starts in the mind.  I've started to understand what this means from a physiological standpoint.  I often see people who eat just healthy food and avoid eating any "bad" food, and exercise regularly yet they often get sick.  One thing I've noticed that those people tend to have a lot of stress in their life (work, family, etc).  

There's autonomic nervous system which consists of parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system.  When we're stressed, parasympathetic nervous system slows down and sympathetic nervous system becomes more active.  So they have a yin and yang relationship.  When that happens, our digestive system slows down, heart rate and breathing rate go up, immune system slows down.  The nervous system is now in "fight/flight" mode. This physiological response prepares us for emergency situations.  During those situations, digesting food isn't a priority.  Mobilizing muscles so we can fight or flight is a priority.  This is a very good thing.  However, when someone is chronically stressed, there's a serious problem. Now autonomic nervous system is out of balance.  Immune system and digestive system become suppressed.  When someone is in this state, no matter how well he/she eats, he/she can't get much nutrition out of food.  And, they're much more prone to illnesses due to suppressed immune system.  Changes in physical state often reflect changes in psychological state.  In Aikido, they say physical body is an extension of mental state.

When our body and mind are out of balance and start to act separately, then we start to develop all sorts of problems.  This is why I believe in a holistic health/wellness approach. Mindful movement practice such as Feldenkrais, Tai Chi, Aikido, Yoga, etc is a wonderful way to keep our body and mind in balance.

What does corrective exercise have to do with authentic movements?

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!

SLOW DOWN

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.

Movement and Cognition

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!