Today's letter focuses on the Mind and Body connection, and how we can sharpen our sensitivity to messages our body sends.
This was one of those mornings. My body refused to cooperate. Every move felt strenuous. My lower back had collapsed. My whole body seemed to be throbbing with pain. In the past, I would have taken a couple of Advil's and waited impatiently for the pain to subside.
On the few occasions where the pain persisted, I would end up reaching for support and ... it worked. Chiropractors, massages, acupuncture, you name it, I tried it. I frequently, experienced immediate, temporary relief, allowing me to recompose myself. However, the temporary relief did not reveal the source of the pain. Could I learn ways to prevent the pain from taking me by surprise yet again?
The inner and outer worlds
Our body, in its complexity, acts as an interface between the surrounding external, physical world and the abstract, inner spiritual world of ideas, meaning and beliefs. The Body (container) and its sensory systems, sight, hearing, touch, smell, digestive system, all gather information from our surroundings, informing us of safety and well-being. In a well functioning system, the signals show up as soon as the two worlds are out of alignment. The Mind, is the governing Headquarters, so to speak, (even though some decisions are made at a local level, for example, a reflex. The body responds or reacts to both the inner and outer experiences in time and space. Together they form an integral mini cosmos. In the holistic approach, Mind and Body are viewed as One.
Often, I hear people complain of tension in different parts of their body: lower back, hip/s, neck and shoulder/s, for example. Relating to the local discomfort may provide temporary relief, however, the question remains as to how one can experience a more sustainable balance, a balance where we use minimal effort to be at ease and harmony with ourselves (inner state) and our surroundings (outer state), able to move more freely and effortlessly between the two.
Motion observation and Balance
Our experience is greatly impacted by our ability to stay in motion. In order to keep the motion flowing, we modulate between polarities, tension and ease, stress and calm, unpleasant and pleasant, logical and emotional. At work, you might choose more tension (heightening the adrenaline hormones levels increases the excitement and productivity levels in the body) but when you get home you may choose more calm and relaxation.
The more attention you pay to your body's communication, (pain, irritation,) the more sensitivity to subtleties you develop and tune in to. Take a moment and observe:
- The flow of your breath - is it deep or shallow? Fast or slow?
- Are there parts of your body that attract your attention? Tension? Ease? Pain or irritation?
- Are you using a lot of muscle power in certain movements? Can you do the same with less effort?
Balance is not a fixed state. Instead, it is an ever-changing state. Also, it is worth mentioning that finding one's individual balance, is a subjective experience, and requires trial and error.
Muscle memory - holding the tension
Dan came in for a session with tight shoulders and sharp pains in his neck. As I gently reached for his arm, I noticed his wrist was locked and his hand was lightly clenched. I raised his arm slowly. He was fluctuating between helping and resisting the motion. When I brought it to his attention, he was surprised, because in his mind he was relaxed.
As the session progressed his range of motion began to increase, the habitual tension, previously so familiar was now shifting allowing for ease and flow.
People tend to hold certain patterns that remain deeply imprinted in the muscle memory tissue, often stored dormant, for many years, barely noticeable to them. That is until higher thresholds of discomfort are reached. The longer we ignore or suppress it, the stronger the impact.
Yet, so many people these days are resorting to anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, anti-pain and any other anti something - available. Numbing the discomfort does not resolve the imbalance. It only dulls the senses.
Today’s exercise focuses on experiencing the shoulders and pelvis, areas often prone to tension and rigidity.
Before you begin the following exercise, keep this in mind:
If at any point during this exercise you sense discomfort, make the movement smaller or stop and rest. If the discomfort persists, you can close your eyes and visualize the movements (our brain experiences it as if we are actively doing it)
Sit down on an upright chair, with your sitting bones close to the front of the seat. Place your feet firmly on the ground. Place your hands loosely on your thighs.
Begin noticing and deepening your breath.
Observe your sitting bones, are you leaning more to one side than the other? What about your shoulders/shoulder blades? Do they feel the same height? Is one shoulder more forward or backward than the other? Is one side more at ease? What about your head? Is it leaning forwards, backwards, sideways or does it feel centered?
Do not fix or change anything. As you do the following movements your body will find its natural balance.
Pay attention to your breath with each movement
Begin to roll your pelvis slowly, back (tailbone goes out) and forward (tailbone goes in towards sitting bones). Repeat it 10 times. Use the pelvis to create the motion (less muscular effort). Notice what your upper body is doing, as the pelvis moves in each direction.
Now continue doing the same movement. Let your shoulders follow the movement. Are they moving backwards or forwards as you roll your pelvis / tailbone? Where is the movement generating from? What are your knees doing?
Now slowly add the head to the motion. Lift your head as you roll the pelvis back then gently move the head forward, towards your chest bone as you move the pelvis in.
Slowly repeat this motion 10 times
Variation: place you hands straight in front of you, shoulder height and do the same as above. Notice your hands as you do the movements.
Put your arms down and rest.
As you observe your spine, rib cage, your shoulders/ shoulder blades, do you feel any shift in your sitting position? Are sitting up taller? Is your breathing more expansive?
Do your shoulders feel broader?
What have you experienced and discovered? Let me know what you found out through these exercises. Where do you hold tension? Are you able to sense how rolling your pelvis impacts your head? Did you sustain the breathing throughout the exercise? If you have found the exercise beneficial, I invite you to continue the transformational process with me or in one of my upcoming Workshops. This is just one more step of experiencing how simple tools can shift your experiences. If you'd like feedback, we can schedule a free call to discuss how you responded to the exercises and how you could benefit from working together. Simply send me an email and let’s discuss the transformation you have just started
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“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.”