As I was going through my Awareness Through Movement® practice earlier today, here’s what occurred to me:
I talk and write a lot about body awareness (it’s what this site is all about) and we hear and read about body awareness on a daily basis. So what is body awareness?
-How do I feel myself in whole and in specific areas in any given moment?
-What sensations are available to me?
-Where am I, as an entire body in space?
-Where are each of my limbs in space?
-How am I organized or arranged as I am sitting, standing, lying, running, walking, jumping, etc.?
-Where do I notice tension?
-Where is there an absence of tension?
-Where do I notice discomfort?
-Where is there an absence of discomfort?
With increased body awareness comes the opportunity to make better physical, mental and emotional choices for ourselves.
We have to know how things are before we can go about changing them, right?!
Choice can come in more flavors than “do this/don’t do this”. The more refined our awareness, the more choices are available to us.
For example, if my low back is painful as I walk, I can stop walking. Or I can pay attention to how I walk and do something else – I can walk more slowly being mindful to how I contact the floor with each foot, if I’m limping I can consciously and gently put solid weight down, I can look for tension and release it, if I tend to look down as I walk I look up and out instead and more.
These choices can either keep us on the side lines or keep us in the thick of life.
Having more than one way to go about anything gives us a valuable tool. It gives us a tool that can go a long way towards making activities of daily life easier and even enjoyable. A tool that can increase our ability in a specialized skill or activity. It is a tool that can feel as though the clock has been turned back.
Sitting, standing, walking, bending in the one familiar way may be comfortable today. For whatever reason. Many people believe that they can only do these things one way.
“This is how I walk; it’s how I’ve always walked.” There might even be a “because” followed by a structural issue.
Our structure (bones mainly in this context) are not made of concrete and they are not unchangeable. Believe it or not, bone, like muscle is considered tissue. It has it’s own blood flow and it is affected to a large degree by what we do with ourselves every day.
For example, you can look at the bones of someone who did manual labor and someone who did not and clearly see how differently the bones are shaped.
Since our bones are pulled by our muscles, the way we use our muscles will affect how we move. We all have some structural issues, but because we are so much more than a structure, we may not be conscious of it. Even if we are, that doesn’t mean that we are relegated to only moving in one certain way.
All that to say that even the way we walk is changeable.
Tension (whether it be physical, mental or emotional) is a powerful indicator of function and, therefore, comfort.
If we move or hold ourselves constantly in tension (and there are soooo many reason why we do), then what needs to move can’t move properly. Our bodies are remarkably adaptable and will find another avenue – or set of muscles – through which to achieve movement. If short-lived, hopefully it’s not an problem. However over time if we move, for example, our neck instead of the middle of our spine (that area between our shoulder blades sometimes referred to as a sensorial black hole), we can end up with chronic headaches, neck pain even lower back pain. With enough time, we will even forget how to move the middle of our spine – known as sensory-motor amnesia.
With neck and low back pain, we can become less and less excited about moving and move less and less. And the less we move the less we can move.
Sound a little bit like what we think of as “old age”?
Why practice body awareness?
Quality of performance.
Quality of pleasure.
Quality of life.