Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Movement IS Life

I have inspiration to write about my friend Adam as he is dealing with some pretty major issues in his life right now.

Due to an accident while on vacation in Nicaragua less than two weeks ago, he suffered a severely broken neck, and has (temporarily) lost his ability to move - he’s paralyzed from the neck down.

I say temporarily because with the brain and nervous system, nothing is set in stone. It is constantly changing based on experience. Provided the necessary experiences, some pretty miraculous things are possible.

The following statement has never rung more true to me that right now:

“Movement is life.”

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais coined this phrase. He was a pioneer in his understanding of how truly important movement is in our lives, as well as how much potential for change exists.

However, with the majority of folks in the world, movement is so ubiquitous, so ever present in every moment in our lives, that most take it for granted.

It something that we are ALWAYS doing – there is movement always occurring in the body regardless of what activity we are taking part in. Heck, when you are sleeping, your ribcage is moving. Your diaphragm is acting as a bellow to both bring in, and then expel, the air that is keeping you alive.

When movement stops, life ceases to exist – it’s that simple.

What most often fail to realize is that this ubiquitous part of life – movement – can not only continue to be refined, but must be refined for us to experience life long energy and vitality, as well as mental acuity.

Don’t get me wrong; habits are a necessary part of life. If we had to think about everything that it is that we do on a daily basis, our ability to accomplish our goals would definitely suffer.

However, as with anything that we do, if we get entrenched into our daily habits, and we no longer seek novelty, we cease experiencing variations.

When we no longer experience variation, we halt the learning process.

Halting this learning process arrests our development and our ability to evolve.

You see, in life, never do we “arrive”.  Some may believe this to be so, but this is false thinking.

We are all on a continuum based on where we are at and what is possible. When we stop engaging in the learning process, especially with movement, we become entrenched in our habits and continue to “burn” in patterns of action that aren’t advantageous to our structures.

Unfortunately, we don’t notice the downside of our movement choices until later when we begin to experience pain and limitation.

When someone throws their back out tying their shoes, it wasn’t the act of tying their shoes that caused it. That action was simply the straw that, pardon the pun, broke the camel’s back.

It was the accumulation of all the poorly executed actions up to that point that enabled the simple act of tying one’s shoes to cause severe pain and limitation.

Once people (and corporations) begin to take advantage of this hugely untapped source of learning – movement – we will begin to see some amazing outcomes.

Productivity will skyrocket!

Don’t believe me? The Journal of the American Medical association has recently estimated that over $61 billion dollars per year are lost due to common chronic pain conditions! Seventy-six percent (76%) of that is while the employees are AT work!

On top of that, the impact of stress holds an estimated price tag to US businesses of over $300 billon dollars per year.

And again, as I’ve written many times before, stress is a somatic experience – we experience it with our whole selves. There is a body pattern that accompanies stress, anxiety, and fear.

When left unchecked, and no opportunities are presented to learn how to better deal with chronic pain and stress (when there are no opportunities to learn more efficient movement patterns), we enter into a cycle of dysfunction.

We begin to slowly circle the drain.

With movement, as in life, everything is a choice. You can choose to remain in your entrenched movement habits, or you can seek variation in what it is that you do when moving in the world.

Movement is ALWAYS good to upgrade for yourself.

And unlike most folks, Adam knew this. 

He appreciated what it meant to learn more refined movement. I have worked with him for over two years and to see what he had become was to see a more fully evolved human being.

His ability to handle stress had improved immensely. His output at work had skyrocketed!

And it could have played a part in saving his life – who knows!?

Regardless, I look forward to working together with Adam upon his return from Nicaragua.

Helping him to hopefully put the pieces of the movement puzzle together once again.

I ask you this: don’t wait until something (movement) has been taken away from you before you realize what a gift it is.

Take advantage of every opportunity to improve yourself - and your movement.

You might be shocked at the outcomes.

What do you do on a daily basis that takes advantage of, and improves, your ability to move?

Log into Adam's journal and send him some encouragement here.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Learning From Children

I was struck this morning by what a friend’s child said to her.

Her 8 year-old daughter said, out of the blue, “Mommy, every thought counts.”

It’s amazing sometimes when you stop a listen to the wisdom of children.

Children are pure, unadulterated, and they speak the truth.

They don’t yet have the stresses of life that most adults have layered one on top of the other.

They’re not interested in what they can’t do.

Their imaginations are FULL.

That’s right, little one - every thought DOES count!

Applying that statement to what I do, I would say that every movement counts.

Here’s why:

Many children are encouraged very early on to walk by their parents.

In and of itself, this is not a bad aspiration for parents to have – but to encourage it sooner than they are able to can, I believe, have long-term consequences.

When parents hold onto the goal of getting their children to walk early, children miss out on some very important learning.

They miss out on learning certain motor patterns.

You see, I believe that we (as children) learn to stand up lying down.

All of the fundamental motor patterns that are necessary for efficient standing and walking are learned while rolling around on the ground.

The first time a child stands up on their own, it’s purely by accident. They aren’t trying to stand up - they’re just trying to get to something.

This is why many children cry the first time they stand – they don’t know how they got there (and they don’t know how to get down)!

Only after the second time does standing become intentional for them.

So encouraging them to stand and walk before they’re ready means they’re missing out.

Not crawling (or not crawling for a long enough period of time) = missed opportunities for their nervous systems to experience certain motor patterns.

If a child is encouraged to go straight into assisted walking before learning to crawl, they develop inefficient ways of moving.

The reason that I am such a believer in this line of thinking is that I was one who went straight to assisted walking. I never learned to crawl, therefore I didn’t learn the underlying fundamental motor patterns that are necessary in order to be efficient in the way that I “use” myself.

And after dealing with chronic back pain for a number of years, I was told in my early twenties that I would eventually need to have a spinal fusion of the discs in my lower back.

Nuh-uh.   Not this kid…

So I set out on my own learning quest, and what I’ve found was this:

There is MUCH we can re-learn from children.

When we re-enter into the child-like movement based learning process and we “roll around” on the ground, there is a wealth of information for our nervous systems.

Using finely designed movements in a sequential order, we are able to re-learn what it’s like to move like a child again.

These methods are based on the body of work created by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, as well as one of his most well known students, Anat Baniel.

These movement sequences are designed to bring greater awareness to your movement capabilities while working through a series of gentle, comfortable steps that involve thinking, sensing, moving, and visualizing.

The process facilitates the development of an enhanced awareness of habitual muscular patterns and rigidities that may be causing limitations in movement.

Through slowing down, you’ll be able to feel those muscular patterns that are limiting you.

And, as Dr. Feldenkrais said, “Once you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want.”

We have the capacity to expand our options for moving with increased sensitivity, learning to eliminate unnecessary effort, attend to our whole self, and better mobilize our intentions into action.

Tension and tightness in our bodies does not exist because your muscles want to be tense.

Tension is controlled at the level of the nervous system – not locally. Your muscles don’t have a desire to be tight!

When seeking solutions to our movement limitations, we need to address movement where it originates – in the brain.

Slowing down and reducing the effort gets the brains attention.

And what has been demonstrated in recent neuorscientific research is that focused, directed attention is the gateway that allows you to take advantage of brain plasticity.

When you apply the possibilities that brain plasticity makes available in terms of movement, you have a recipe that will allow you to move away from those patterns that presently cause you pain into new ones that aren’t limiting.

So, learn to move by rolling around on the ground again.

Have fun.

Pay attention to what you feel.

And remember, not only does every thought count – every movement does to!

What is it that you do that keeps you in a curious, child-like state of mind?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the above post.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

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