Reminder: Train Your Play Muscles

When is the last time you trained your play muscles? You remember those? The ones that were iron-strong in your youth. The ones that you didn't have to consciously activate because they were always engaged. Ya, those ones.

Today, challenge yourself to play more. Bounce a ball. Play fight with your loves. Jump. Balance on curbs. Run up a slide. Hang off a monkey bar. Play chase, tag, hop scotch, crab walk, or anything that lights you up! 

To holistically develop your physicality, play is important. It integrates many athletic components: coordination, speed, agility, balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance, all while bolstering mind-body wellness. 

Get back at it! 

The Truth Behind Self-Image

When you hear the term self-image, it likely triggers words that relate to your appearance or perhaps your strengths and weaknesses. I'm guessing it doesn't trigger words like awareness, feeling, thought, movement or sensation as much, right? It should.

Think about it. Our sense of self is defined by how we engage with the world around us. This includes everything from the coffee mug you move from the table to your mouth; reacting to the stop signs on your bike to work; and the decisions we have to make throughout a day to the thoughts and emotions we have while in conversation with the people in our lives. According to Moshe Feldenkrais, there are four ways we interact with our external environment:

1. Feelings

Emotions like joy and anger are part of our interactions with the world, but so are self-respect, inferiority and supersensitivity, in addition to other conscious and unconscious emotions.

2. Kinesthetic Sense

This sense enables us to perceive pain, orient our body parts in space, and notice the passage of time and rhythm.

3. Thinking

Thinking enables us to see opposites (good/bad, right/wrong), and it allows us to classify things, detect rules, imagine, and so on.

4. Movement

Movement is about more than just walking or jumping. Movement considers changes in space and time in the state and shapes of the body and its parts. 

So, the point in this little textbook-like explanation from Moshe Feldenkrais' work is to draw your mind beyond aesthetics and competencies and deeper into your self-awareness... into your feelings, your sensations, your thinking and your movement. 

This insight made me think of something Gloria Steinem once said. She commented that women knew themselves best before age 8! I believe that she was making reference to the idea that pre-eight, the masks, the pretending, the comparison, the head-stuff isn't nearly as present.

Regarding age eight, interestingly this week, I read that children before this age tend to live more within their bodies and less in their heads. You may have noticed this in a child's way of engaging with the world? They are in the present moment. They are in their bodies, in their sensations, in their movement. Yes, of course they are in their heads too, but not as adults are. They are in present-moment thoughts or at least in an ideal world, they are... not worrying about the past or the present, but living in the moment in all it's sensory input and the associated imaginative processing.  

Develop your self-image through getting to know yourself better. Get back into that body of yours, explore your sensations, your emotions and your thoughts through your movement. See if this improved self-knowing shifts how you interact with the world and most importantly, yourself!

Can We Create New Emotions With Our Body?

I recently took in a thought-inspiring TED Talk by Tiffany Watt Smith on The History of Human Emotions. It triggered a really neat thought for me. Tiffany says that as we learn more words to express emotions, we actually develop new feelings! (COOL!)

This made me think about the language of movement! Think about dancers, actors or anyone who is deeply connected to their body and how they can express emotions across a broad spectrum, but with subtleties throughout the range. There is a term for this in the land of emotional intelligence... "emotional granularity" and it refers to the ability to differentiate between the specificity of emotions.

The reason I think this is so cool is because if we develop a better connection to our physical bodies, imagine how many emotions we could experience both as the one expressing them and absorbing them! How much better could this make your experience here on Earth?

Watt Smith also discusses the intimate connection between words, our bodies and our culture throughout her talk; this quote really stood out, "The most recent developments in cognitive science show that emotions are not simple reflexes, but immensely complex, elastic systems that respond both to the biologies we've inherited and to the cultures we live in now. They are cognitive phenomena that are shaped not just by our bodies but by our thoughts, our concepts, our language.... [As our] language changes, our emotions do too."

What do you think of this? Pretty interesting, isn't it? I'm in awe thinking about the emotions we could have the opportunity to feel!!! I think this is so beautiful and it certainly helps with communication too (from both ends)! 

Here's the TED if you want to check it out for yourself! 

Have fun exploring your body at greater depths... perhaps you may feel even more goodness in life! 

How To Build a Body to Last

It is important for you to build a body that will age with both power and grace? Longevity for my body/mind is becoming increasingly important to me. Through the years as an athlete and health professional, I've learned firsthand how critical it is to look after your body/mind. 

Here's what I believe is the single most important thing for building a strong body/mind that will stand the test of time... VARIETY OF MOVEMENT! 

It's true. Without variety, we will lose the ability to control our joints through their full ranges of motion. We need to move beyond walking, running, biking, standard gym workouts, yoga, etc., to be able to hold on to bodies that work well today and for decades to come. 

Take a quick flash back down memory lane to high school gym class. What were the components of athleticism you were tested on: speed, power, strength, agility, flexibility, coordination, aerobic endurance, balance, and even reaction time. Now, think about how many of these factors you are including in your daily movement repertoire? It's likely time to mix it up!

Ohad Naharin is one of the most famous choreographers in the world and his Gaga classes are designed for both dancers and non-dancers. In this video, you will see footage from a Gaga Dancers class rather than a Gaga People class, but you can imagine in your own body that these are ranges and combinations of movements you haven't tried since childhood! 

Below is a short clip of Ido Portal's mother training at age 64. It's inspiring especially considering that she only started training at age 58. Don't set boundaries on how you can move based on your age or gender.

Ido Portal is now quite famous in the training world and in MMA as he's recently been working with some of the world's most famous athletes. His approach to movement is one that really resonates with me. If you are looking for some screen-time entertainment, this is worth watching. It's about more than just moving, it's about how we are choosing to live our lives! 

Move more.

Move because it feels so good, even the parts that are full of effort.

Movement is medicine! 

Movement Habits Can Change Our Lives

For most, movement is most certainly habitual. Unless we work to observe our movement habits and break past them, we can become locked in body and in mind. We need to be aware of the way we move, as it shapes the way we see ourselves and subsequently live our lives. The opposite is also true, the manner in which we perceive ourselves shapes our movement. Sharing this sentiment is wisdom from four movement gurus I've been studying from recently. 

"Distortions of body structure are primarily caused by responses to life experiences that engender habitual ways of perceiving and moving in the world. Over time, such patterns of response distort the body's natural form and movement to that structural imbalance becomes self-perpetuating, and may even block opportunities for personal growth." ~Ida Rolf (1896 – 1979)
"We move according to our perceived self-image." ~Moshe Feldenkrais (1904-1984)
"Movement can heal - giving sense you can move beyond familiar limits." ~Ohad Naharin (Mr. Gaga) (Born 1952)
"Neuroplasticity sits in the heart of our system's redundancy and adaptive ingrained capability. Essentially all parts of our system are able to function in an infinite array of ways, hence it is important to keep ourselves challenged and ever evolving but not towards one fixed utopian point." ~Ido Portal (Born ~1980)

Can you feel the connection between how you move, how you feel and how you live your life? I certainly can and the more aware I am of this connection, the more empowered I feel to make the shifts I want to experience. 

Move + grow!