Tom Myers on exercise & Movement:
“If you can do it slowly, you can do it quickly; but just because you can do it quickly doesn’t mean you can do it slowly.”
Tom Myers on exercise & Movement:
“If you can do it slowly, you can do it quickly; but just because you can do it quickly doesn’t mean you can do it slowly.”
This month’s soap box we will be speaking to is a trend that has been taking shape over the years. We would like to suggest that before we get to deep into setting goals, let’s enjoy some time this year to understand our current baseline. What do you do already?
In January, we thought it may be fun to create a group sleep tracking event. It is meant to bring attention to a crucial yet often sacrificed part of what it takes to be our healthiest selves. Have you been adding your sleep hours to our wall?! If you haven’t start now!
Bringing your attention to your current sleep habits will give us an opportunity to contemplate how we may be helping or hindering all the other things we do to create a healthy quality of life.
Let’s pay attention to what we already do in order to give us an opportunity to contemplate how we may be helping or hindering all the other things we do to create a healthy quality of life.
Have you noticed over the last few weeks if your sleep was hindered by any of the following:
Other Options to Consider are:
While you are on this journey with us, notice these things about your sleep patterns and maybe even make notes, it may help you sleep in the long run!
Last week, we hosted a workshop on stretching for strength. For those of you who missed it, here are a few takeaways:
Pain: Observing someone else – which is the constant job of a manual or movement therapist – how am I to know when things are unpleasant and emotional or too much? How do you know when sensations are going to far?
“A sensation accompanied by the motor intention to withdraw” Tom Myers
Pain consists of three types: “pain that enters the body”, “pain stored in the body”, and “pain leaving the body”.
What’s in a feeling?
Muscle Spindle: is a proprioceptor, a sense organ that receives information from muscle, it senses STRETCH and the SPEED of the stretch.
When you stretch and feel the message that you are at the ENDPOINT of your stretch the spindle is sending a reflex arc signal to your spinal column telling you not to stretch any further. This sense organ protects you from over stretching or stretching too fast and hurting yourself.
Golgi Tendon Organ: is a proprioceptor, sense organ that receives information from the tendon, that senses TENSION.
When you lift weights, the Golgi tendon organ is the sense organ that tells you how much tension the muscle is exerting. If there is too much muscle tension the Golgi tendon organ will inhibit the muscle from creating any force (via a reflex arc), thus protecting you from injuring yourself.
Cerebellum: (latin for ‘little brain’) receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain and then regulates motor movements. The cerebellum coordinates voluntary movements such as posture, balance, coordination, and speech, resulting in smooth and balanced muscular activity.
So What? Your neurological system can get it’s wires crossed and you can ‘feel tight’ and not be tight, you can feel restricted not because the joint’s in danger but because the Golgi tendon THINKS/FEELS it’s in danger because the muscle spindle and or Golgi tendon never returned to it’s “happy” shape.
Release for Range
• Gives the body a space and time to recalibrate it’s systems and or to regain their structure
• The cerebellum needs you to pay attention, investigate, it needs to be fed information
• Allows the body to take in and establish the changes movement & manual therapists give
• Release is developed in the space between how far and how much — in other words before the muscle spindle or Golgi tendon needs to shut you down
Creating release in your body takes an investigators mind.
Dynamic Neutral: Learning how to experience where a joint can create motion without influencing how your body weight sits in space before you started the motion We can’t teach you what to feel we can only teach you how to feel. Instructors try to find words that give you opportunity to explore how to weight sense, find fluidity and or focus on the space between where the motion begins and how the motion travels through you
Body Weight: ‘The force exerted on a body by a gravitational field’; ’our ability to stand upright depends on the tension between the force of the body and the pull of gravity’ (Laban)
Space: When we move we ‘push some space out of the way’ and the area we just vacated is filled with more space. (Laban)
Gather and Scatter: (Newlove, Dalby, 2004:112)
• Gather: taking up the least amount of space possible; this consists of ‘bending all of our joints and curling up into a ball’.
• Scatter: when we can stretch all of our limbs into a star like position, stretching even our fingers, to extend our Kinesphere
• It is important to remember that we don’t only gather or scatter our whole body but individual body parts as well
• Generally in movement we are doing both, using opposition to create stability in order to increase mobility and balance
Kinesphere: “The sphere around the body whose periphery can be reached by easily extended limbs without stepping away from that place which is the point of support when standing on one foot” (1966, Laban p.10) (visual image: DaVinci ‘)
Kinetic Force: how much energy is required to move in space
• Find time to investigate what midrange is in your body.
• Before you move, create a sense of ready throughout the entire body, gradually build up the sense of ready until you have gathered your weight and then move.
• Remember coordinating your body actually takes a great deal of intelligence, skill, patience and investigation, avoid taking it for granted or relaying on others
Words are powerful. However – just for the record – lets remember that we make them up, along with all of the stories we then create around these words. But are they an expression of anything authentically our truth?
One of our greatest gifts is our imagination – to make things up. Just watch any child at ‘play’. This capacity was hard-wired for all of us when we arrived, created and creative. The rest is merely conditioning. Anything that removes us from a sense that life is wondrous, though not without the inevitable scrapes and bruises, is simply not our truth – merely inherited knowledge of what life ‘should’ be.
If your life isn’t working for you, check in with yourself and listen closely to the words you are telling yourself – both about yourself as well as about other. Take time to simply be with what is really happening – it takes courage to be vulnerable. But in being openly honest (vulnerability) with ourselves, we gain access to our only true power.
Do you ever wonder? Yes, simply just be with and muse, wonder, get Zen. It is like a cat merely resting languorously in the sun. Can you imagine if you were to establish a practice of ‘no word’ and just listen, without attachment, to the sound of silence? If there is speaking, still listen for the breaks in the flow of words. Like music, the meaning is established or discerned in the ‘no sound’ as much as in ‘the sound’.
Although words are powerful, it is equally true that the space of ‘no words’ or silence, or truly listening is also profound. We are always so busy – not only speaking or listening to others speak – that we too often forget to allow for the space of no words. Just listen.
Why do you make words mean so little or so much?
What might our world be like if we spent more time communing in silence and ‘listening’?
Light has a different quality at the beginning of day in the early winter morning than in summer. Have you noticed? Nature sounds different in spring than in winter – have you noticed? What is the sound of silence to you? There is beauty, magic in this kind of attention – an attention that does not rush in to describe, or worse, ignore altogether.
Words are powerful but so is the sound and healing presence of silence. Have you tried it?
You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
That fence in the world,
For the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
And then no one outside learns of you.
But the darkness pulls in everything-
This poem by Rainer Maria Rilke reminds me also of words, like the fires in this poem – and ‘no words’/silence – being like an enveloping darkness.
I love the melodies of words, ‘tis true. However, I fear that we miss the beauty that waits in silence. This is especially so if we get caught up in a mindless barrage of words, labels, and a need to be the gong or in a throng, absent of silence and listening.
What if we could speak mindfully, listen for the music, making space for, at the risk of being vulnerable, silence.
What if our true power – vulnerability – lays in our willingness to be with the no words, or silence as much as in the spoken words?
Silence sounds like the space between night and day,
The glance of love that needs no words,
The full moon rising over the lake,
The morning dew on the quiet grass,
The first rays of the new day’s sunlight,
A mystery too deep for words.
Forgive me…I believe this is a stanza from a poem by Mary Oliver; I neglected to cite its origin. But it is too beautiful to not close with the beckoning sounds of silence.
Professionals who play the role of being your Guide Through Movement (Pilates, Yoga, Functional Fitness, etc …) use a third person perspective of observing your body from the outside WHILE using our words to construct a narrative that gives you the opportunity to perceive yourself from the inside.
In doing this, we focus your awareness, we create an opportunity for you to practice the skill of conscious attention.
Improvement of your overall body function. Avoid the stress your day to day activities (which include working out) creates in your body resulting in habitual movement patterns that do not serve you. Once a movement crosses into the habitual realm you are giving up voluntary control. Involuntary conditioning decreases your body function or potential function, it lays the ground work for chronic ailments, dysfunctions and leaves you with a rigid body.
Body mapping, intentional release work, creates a space for learning. This learning expands your range of action and your perception of available action, resulting in a greater range of movement, strength and ability. If the skill of conscious attention during movement (sensory-motor system) is practiced through out your life time you have opportunity to avoid the habituating effects of stress.
Two of the ‘guru’s’ of these methods are:
Thomas Hannah: Clinical Somatic Education
Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais: Feldenkrais Method
At KW Art of Fitness our base of this concept is drawn from Integrated Movement Therapies (IMT)®, from the Pilates educator Second Wind Pilates Plus, Danielle LeBlanc.
Oh you will.
You must also be willing to first address the practice of perceiving minimal sensation, minimal movement – thus creating new sensory feedback, new clarity of movement. The unknown becomes the known. Undiscovered opportunity of functional strength becomes discovered and you will have access to voluntarily eliciting effortless effort.
It all starts with breath, YUP … breathing again ….
and IMAGINATION ….
Our thinking directs our movements. Your imagination (mental pictures) will cause the deep muscles to come into action. This conscious access to your body is underneath the superficial layers of muscle. Therefore, you will not feel them work in the traditional sense. If, in fact, you get a work sensation then you are doing, not thinking (imagination), thus defeating the purpose.
At our studio we intentionally drop in moments during your time with us to search out these body mapping opportunities. Sometimes we make it obvious, while other times we sneak it in ….
Learn more about how we specifically create these opportunities for you to explore this world of voluntary consciousness through body mapping.
Join us for the workshop: Stretch for Strength, Release for Range.
We are also running the same workshop for movement professionals, which will dive into cuing (using your words) to help elicit this idea in people whom you are guiding others.
Call your pursuit of fitness and function by whichever label suits; just remember your pursuit will be better served if you take the time to also potentiate your efforts exerted by learning voluntary control (fluid, responsive, supple, efficient movement) – Body Mapping …
“The achiever’s shadow is addiction to winning, fuelled by the never-ending desire for more. Underneath, s/he has an even stronger fear of losing.”
P. 121, The Soul of Leadership, Deepak Chopra.
Remember how Stephanie referred to cueing as story? And, remember how, in a previous blog I talked about the malaise of “MORE”? How does our story deliver as relational and not just more noise? And, what is the space you have available for the more? What if there is only so much available space for more and it is being taken up by spam – like an inbox intruder?
A great deal of what runs our lives is constantly running in the background – endless loops of old tapes that have gathered over the years of our growing up/socializing process. These ‘tapes’ include our perceptions, beliefs, fears, expectations, judgments and so much more. Without even realizing, unless we bring them into our conscious awareness, “They” are running the show. So…who or what is in the drivers’ seat of your vehicle – this thing you call your life.
What I mean by this is all those times we are running on autopilot. You know…when you arrive somewhere and don’t know how you got thereJ Granted, this can happen from time to time; but what if this is your norm? I say that if you aren’t taking a few calculated risks, and living on the edge (outside your comfort zone), you are taking up too much space. It is a choice; no judgments…but, there is the question of what do you want your life to be at the mercy of – automatic-itis or committed, conscious choices?
It is a little bit like fitness. If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish and WHY, are you really getting fit? And what qualifies as a fit life? Perhaps what we really need to do is simply ask more questions and dare to live the questions for a fuller presence inside the choices we make. See Rainer Maria Rilke – Click Here.
Own your body, free your mind! Dare to ask the better questions.
It is our predetermined programming that imposes judgments and ‘should(s)’ (read: absence of true choice), rather than thoughtful reflections and authentic choice. From Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl says:
This is where emotional agility resides. Things become increasingly complicated when we either forget we have a choice, or we don’t believe we have one – life on automatic pilot.
When working with clients, it is disturbing but a delicious moment when repeatedly coming up against fixed notions of who the client believes they are – as if they are an object like a table or something. This is especially so when the belief is not even serving the individual well in their everyday experience of themselves – their experience of life with this set of beliefs.
The good news is that we are NOT objects; we are verbs. So…this is why I ask a client the question: ‘if you didn’t know who you were (as in a fixed set of beliefs; a fixed storyline)/a single narrative), who would you be?’
The difficulty in this koan (above) is that we are attached to our fixed notions when indeed we have a freedom – and the responsibility that goes with that – to CHOOSE. So…why are we so resistant to choosing? I don’t really have the answers though I do have some ideas about the resistance. But if we choose to approach this conundrum as a koan, could we be off the hook for an answer?
Koan, Japanese Kōan, in Zen Buddhism of Japan, a succinct paradoxical statement or question used as a meditation discipline. “Among other things, Zen is the task of re-learning how to live your daily life with a quirky, sometimes poetic spontaneity. “ (a quote is from Zachary Turpin, doctoral candidate in literature, 2016).
So the real task might be the need or the opportunity, given the right support, to relearn who or what we believe to be true i.e. ‘carved in stone’ right…We even do this with our notions about fitness, relationships, roles as partners, parents, pastors (???) even. Lol. Why would we resist the freedom to simply choose a new definition of our self?
Minimalism is beginning to gain some popularity as a lifestyle. What if we were to marry these two ideas: Minimalism and the fact of being verbs?
Could it be as simple as what Mary Oliver shares in a stanza of her poem:
When Death Comes
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”
Couldn’t we assert that if we are not willing to live LIVE, like a child ‘verbs’ through his/her moments, thriving… that we are simply getting by, settling for and lamenting, or possibly even lauding, comparing, judging, fearing, or gloating based on someone else’s thinking (a fixed set of beliefs).
Mary Oliver closes out her poem saying:
“I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.” What about you? Verb and vitality or ‘same old, same old’ and lacking zest that celebrates the gift of the life you have been given?
What would you have to relearn in order to freely choose?
Isolation is exactly that, a myth.
"The whole body participates in every movement" Irmgard Bartenieff
I made the statement in my last Mind Your Words blog that every energetic expression of movement has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.
Part of the complexity of the action is when the brain/body sorts through which muscle(s) will pull(agonist). Which muscle(s) will simultaneously lengthen (antagonist). AND the Movement Instructors favorite place to play; which muscles will act to stabilize the joint around which the movement is happening (synergist).
The complexity the brain/body sorts through also includes what order these actions occur in during movement.
Your brain and body systems know this already. Spend time practicing bringing your ATTENTION to the entire body participation. As opposed to, bringing your attention to the one muscle that happens to be just ONE of the MANY muscle participants.
Every action imposed on the body has three components.
An antagonist muscle, the agonist and the synergist.
For example, during a biceps curl, the triceps is the antagonist muscle. This muscle lengthens as the biceps contracts (agonist).
The synergists stabilize a joint around which movement is occurring and helps to create movement. The nervous system is the conductor of this awesome orchestra.
As a Movement Instructor, we first look for a persons ability to bring their attention to the SYNERGISTS. We then will ask you to challenge the synergists. This challenge occurs via a larger range of motion, more force/tension, or by increasing time within the exercise (endurance of the synergists efforts).
The above request from your instructor results in you feeling the burn or work sensations in a specific area —- for example the ‘glutes.’
Generally speaking, if all your attention is on the “one” muscle you think is being isolated the tendency is to “clench and go”. This creates many future problems.
Sarah Eby, of Roots Physiotherapy, will in a later blog help us understand the importance of muscles that SLIDE their fibers long and short instead of CLENCHING and how our nervous system is an essential piece of the puzzle!
Ever wonder why your Pilates/Movement Instructor sometimes **sighs** or rolls their eyes when you ask in the middle of the action(s) what muscle am I using?
So, NO, you will never spend time at our studio “working your glutes.” You WILL spend time challenging yourself through movements that DO incorporate the ‘glutes’ and all the layers beneath. These challenges will allow the brain/body to orchestrate their action at the correct moment in time. We will help you discover the MAGIC of movement; how to get out of your own way.
We will teach you how to use the power of ATTENTION to get what you need from an exercise INSTEAD of encouraging the myth of isolation to carry on in your mind.
Did you notice that we’re ONLY talking about muscles?
When speaking of exercising our complex living network, we also need to consider and respect many other participators.
Bones, joints, ligaments
Spinal cord fluid
Sensory proprioceptors, etc.
This above list is why our studio instructors collaborate with Physiotherapists so often.
In lieu of going on, let me pause and instead ask:
Are you seeing how ISOLATION becomes a MYTH?
SYNERGIST: a body organ, medicine, etc., that cooperates with another or others to produce or enhance an effect
ISOLATION: an instance of isolating something, especially a compound or microorganism
ATTENTION: the mental faculty of considering or taking notice of someone or something
CLENCH: (of a muscular part of the body) tighten or contract sharply, especially with strong emotion
Even when we use words, it’s not just the words we say that matter – it’s the tone of our voice, facial expressions, or even the shapes we make with our bodies. The body knows and doesn’t lie.
Through learning The Model of Human Behaviour, I learned why my husband would have referred to me as, “excessively happy.” How is this possible!?
Ahhh: the case to be made for personalities, how we process information, and what are the respective needs of the various profiles (Model of Human Behaviour types). There are astonishing distinctions between the four types: D (Dominant type); I (Influence); S (Steadiness); and C (Compliance). Each of these ‘types’ has very unique differences and life-giving needs.
High “D’s” like to be in control, like a challenge, and need autonomy to make decisions & solve problems.
High “I’s” most want others to be friendly, emotionally honest and want to be recognized for their contributions.
High “S’s” most need others to be relaxed, agreeable, cooperative & appreciative.
If/when we fail to perceive and speak to these differing ways of communicating and orienting, we might be down and out before we ever get up and going.
The different profiles (and we all have some of each type in our unique blend) are actually like a different language that includes nuances specific to tempo, details, and the attending emotional needs that go along with our strengths.
Dr. Robert Rohm says we must beware to not tolerate and until we can annihilate but rather learn to celebrate our differences. However, we cannot beware until we are aware. The Model of Human Behaviour is a lot of fun, easy to learn, and mastery of this skill makes life and relationships improve like magic. As a Master Trainer and life skills coach (a “Guide to all things Great” ©), I never leave home without this highly energizing, user-friendly tool.
Remember the adage: it’s not the words we say but the music we play? This learned skill is where the music happens – where words, tempo, and other unique flourishes have the result of everyone feeling like they matter. Isn’t this what we would all like?
Feeling seen and heard supports a sense of worth and respect. All manner of connections begin here – fundamentals in the human dynamic.
What could our world become if there was a little more of “us”/presence, engaging through the art and science of listening, and fewer of our words?
BTW: listening and responding to others in their preferred style (D, I, S, C) accomplishes connection – that sense of being love, peace, possibility, friendship, better relationships overall – even making better choices for our fitness and training needs. People “light up” when they learn about themselves inside this model.
Question: whose responsibility is it to get your needs met?
For the Pilates participants who may be reading this, the perspective below offers a glimpse into part of what goes on behind the scenes;
the mind of the instructor;
the person who can NOT count to 10 — forwards or backwards 😀
The aim is to clear up just why we, Pilates Movement Instructors, are so darn persnickety, and why we take our storytelling skill so seriously!
Movement Instructors connect words with actions, simultaneously offering relevant reasons to motivate the participants intention and attention to said action. We are fostering intelligent communication for connection between teacher and client; the cues we use are meant to describe and inspire the idea of a movement that has energetic expression. This is our art.
Our underlying quest as instructors in our storytelling skill is for clients to experience success. To feel like the time spent pursuing quality movement was a worthwhile endeavour. Sometimes, this pressure surrounding the self created quest takes our storytelling skills down a notch. We find ourselves relying to heavily on anatomical details or ‘feeling’ the exercise/movements, in a specific area or repeating go-to phrases the industry has latched on to.
There is a danger in being too anatomical or too focused on what or where someone “should be feeling” an exercise. Let’s face it; some of us don’t care what moves who where, some of us feel to much and even more of us don’t have any feelings at all …. AND we’re all snowflakes, each one of us different, with different needs and goals.
When the Movement Instructor and the client can get out of our own way and step cleanly into the moment in front of us, the body systems and the brain know how to move, the story is being told, teaching action is happening, the magic takes place …
The pleasure seeking brain is continually searching out and repeating action that makes life easier. When action results in making life easier the brain categorizes the action as pleasure. The pleasure causes the brain to look for ways to groom and groove excellent movement patterns, this becomes motivation.
Storytelling skill (cueing) aims to borrow that instinctive desire and drive the individual to continually ‘tidy up’ movements, until there is the awesome moment of “effortless effort”.
What?! (Insert eye roll here…)
Pilates is designed to give you the opportunity to work better, THEN harder, while encouraging participants to always avoid working harder then is necessary.
Clean (i.e effortless effort) movement demands efficiency, Pilates teaches that, grooms that, and ultimately what was once your workout becomes your warm up.
Step up, be prepared to explain an action in several different ways. Explore cueing until you see the action being understood or you see the light bulb going off behind the eyes of the client.
Work towards understanding how the client learns. What brought the client through the door in the first place? Why do they keep coming back? We need to learn to adapt our cues and expressions to match the person in front of us.
Be clear. We all have our ‘go to’ expressions. For example: belly button to spine. Let’s make sure we first express what we actually are asking for. Avoid relying on and assuming a phrase will always inspire the correct action.
Address complex action simply. Sometimes the list of cues are LONG, be sure to highlight a priority. In other words, emphasis what shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to accomplish another action further down the list of cues.
One of my favorite teaching moments is between breathing and action. If the effort to create an action causes you to hold your breath, the sacrifice is too great. In other words, if you catch yourself holding your breath, reign it in, work only as hard as you can breath consistently.
Simply means exploring with clients to learn what to say in order to help someone organize and co-ordinate a movement. Look at what happens when the client does what you asked them to do. Then identify and address perhaps TWO of the most important corrections according to their demonstration.
Both the Movement Instructor and the client need to allow for room to grow into the actions. It takes time for the brain to instinctively and confidently adapt movement patterns. Every energetic expression of the teachers cue has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.
Your brain and body systems know this and will learn to re-organize itself according to the brain’s pleasure response.
We need you to speak up when what we’re asking for sounds like a foreign language.
Do you keep hearing a phrase that you feel or think is wrong for your body? Ask the instructor to explain themselves or to paraphrase what they are saying.
If you’re given a bony landmark or a muscle or a feeling/sensation as a reference point, speak up if that reference point is even a little bit foggy. There are hundreds of ways to describe an action.
Be patient with yourself, it’s just Pilates. #gregpember