I felt compelled to write this. Every day I work with people who desperately want to get better. They want to move more easily, live without pain, and be more productive and happier. Most of them believe that the fix is to do some exercises, get stronger, and go back to how things were. And perhaps that works for a few. But we must realize that we cannot have a conversation about what exercises to do or even what is wrong with the body without understanding that prolonged stress pulls at our every fiber and is the cornerstone of the bad stuff in your life.
Isn’t it always a paradox when you hear someone say, “Just relax” as if it’s a conscious decision the person is making to be tensed and keyed up. Like “yeah the thing I want most in the world is to be stressing out right now”.
Read on to understand a connection between our perceptions, stress, and movement and how you can get first dibs on my fully-downloadable audio course: Movement Meditations.
I find the denial of human impact on climate change to be an interesting example at how we recognize and respond to threat as a humans.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we have selected for traits that allow for immediate survival: quickly perceiving the whites of enemies' eyes and teeth, toxic or rancid smells, or running from tigers. We developed the ability to quickly change our physiology to survive and/or pass on our genes. All in the name of getting out of dodge in the short-term...
We are not meant nor designed to be under constant stress. Take, for example, mouth breathing. When you breathe thru your mouth as your primary mode of respiration you are stressing your system.
Let’s say you’re worried about something at work and haven’t been sleeping well. This emotional event creates a physiologic stimulus that is interpreted as you being under threat. So your body kicks into protect mode and part of protect mode is get as much air IN as possible. Who knows when your next breath is going to come, better get the air now.
Look, I get the “stiff upper lip” cultural norm of just plowing thru life and pushing anything that gets in your way. A sort of self-punishment that we wear as a badge of honor – something I’ve certainly done.
But we have a biological need to come down after stressful events (which includes thoughts — they’re neurological events as real as any other). Animals in the wild experience stress and danger routinely, yet most aren’t traumatized and limping around with stiff and painful backs or clinical anxiety. But zoo animals and most humans are experiencing this kind of dysfunction.
Read on to discover why, and learn a new strategy I've come up with to help.
WARNING: Do not read this if you are going to read half. Do not read this article if you cling to the security of the ground below you because it may crack and then you might have to make a move. [This is a collaborative article between myself and Dr. Ben House (he wrote Part 1, I wrote Part 2 for those keeping score). It gets in the weeds a bit but we are really excited about the potential touched on here!]
Forty miles per hour on a tight left turn, OK 40 kilometers per hour. Nothing between me and rocks but my skin. Up a mountain side and down through a river, twenty minutes of short breathes, tension, and focus. Then I hit the kill switch. Everywhere you look is green and the world stops. I swing my leg off the bike and exhale. This is a microcosm of life. Alternation. Not good. Not bad.
How do you know who you are? That's a heavy question to start off this article and one that I certainly cannot answer. But I've been struck lately with how many of the clients I work with are uncomfortable in their own bodies, often reporting they feel 'phony' or otherwise physically insecure - unsure of who they are. I wonder if this is because many people don't accurately know where they are in space. If you don't know where you are, do you know who you are? In order to understand this better, we have to dig a bit deeper into spatial references and thus Part I!
Much of my philosophy when it comes to movement and behavior hinges on the process of self-regulation. I have addressed various aspects of self-regulation, or the loss thereof, on this website but I've never truly defined it. Read on for a few thoughts on the subject, including how I define it, as well as a link to an article I recently authored that introduces the connection between self-regulation and movement.
Something I find interesting is that if an output doesn't feel challenging and full of psychosomatic tension, it must not be hard enough; we must not be putting forth enough effort. In my previous post, I discussed how the space between our self-image and our perception of environmental demands may often be the source of tension and rigidity. Taking this a step further, I wonder how many times we only feel "right" when moving or emoting with heightened tension - particularly the things we perform automatically that should be effortless: walking, bending forward, even swallowing. Is this the most efficient way to move and perform within the environment?
Humans are social creatures with our capacity for language giving us dominion, as we perceive it, over other species. Given our inclination for spoken and written communication, we humans love to label things. So it's no surprise that the medical model often goes after labeling the "what" (an issue in the tissue, a chemical imbalance, an anatomical variance) without as much as emphasis on the "why". But is that always a helpful thing, particularly in chronic neuromusculoskeletal conditions which the U.S. is quite inept at treating? I argue that labeling fundamentally changes our experience and alters our ability to self-regulate.