I don’t often read fiction books, however, on the run up to our recent retreat in Morocco I read an excellent and very funny book. It is titled ‘this book will save your life’ by the author A.M. Homes. The story is about a stocks and shares trader who works from his beautiful house in L.A, and is so preoccupied making money, he sees no one except his nutritionist, his personal trainer and his housekeeper. He is so distracted, he does not realise how disconnected from his emotions, his body and other people he has become, until an attack of excruciating pain lands him in hospital. While they can find no physical reason for the pain, it is the catalyst to his emotional thaw and the start of him engaging more fully with his life.
At one point he goes to see a doctor, who says to him ‘you have hit a wall, now climb it – literally’ and gives him the number of some rock climbing venues, ‘make the mental physical, and the physical mental, and things will improve.’ Whilst rock climbing isn’t for everyone, he has a point. Our body inescapably conditions our thoughts, feelings and perceptions of the world around us, which in turn, conditions every cell, organ and function within our body for better or worse.
The body is an ideal, highly visible medium for transformation……when we relax the body and release tensions, the mind and emotions tend to reflect this change (and vice versa). Conscious physical training is using the visible to mold the invisible.
Dan Millman, The Inner Athlete
I like this quote. It suggests, as does my experience, that a body-mind movement practice can be a powerful personal development tool, through which we are able to affect and change our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing in profound and enduring ways.
Movement is usually considered to be an activity of the body, but could more accurately be seen as the brain visibly expressing itself.
Joanne Elphinston, Power and Grace
Our posture, both static and dynamic, is habitual. Movement that encourages smoothness and ease, that teaches us greater awareness, stability and relaxation, benefits our nervous system and brain development. Less energy is expended working with the body, rather than against it; learning to breathe well, to walk, to stand, to sit, to get up and down and move in ways that align our bones is vital for good health and relaxation, however:
Relaxation is not negation, it is not passivity. The moment it is considered as such, flaccidity is encouraged, both mental and physical. Take hold of your bones softly, but do not let go of them. Mabel Todd, The Thinking Body
Babies and young children are masters of relaxed movement. They have yet to develop the habitual tensions, imbalances, comparisons and limiting self-beliefs that often plague us as adults. They progressively, playfully, yet determinedly persist in exploring their movement potential every day, and as adults, there is great benefit to be gained from restoring and refining fundamental movement patterns.
Thankfully, most of the body’s tissues, including the brain, have a remarkable and lifelong capacity for change. Becoming aware of the chronic tension we carry is the first step in releasing it, however, as with any change, there is likely to be a period of discomfort. As we become increasingly conscious of our chronic stiffness, tension and weakness there may be a temporary drop in self-esteem that triggers our in built defence mechanisms, and results in us remaining stuck in old patterns and habits that no longer serve.
The mind’s first step to self-awareness must be through the body
Perhaps, the crux of any body-mind movement practice should be to develop our curiosity and awareness sufficiently to be able to recognise, observe and evolve our own patterns, particularly those that literally confine us within our own body.