What If…?

What If…? Part 3

US Navy 030830-N-9693M-006 U.S. Naval Academy ...

 In this post I will venture to explain some upper body mechanics…

Why too many downward dogs or push ups can give you a headache among other things.


Quick Review

In the previous two posts I touched upon:

  • How complex our body is
  • What a healthy muscle is
  • What fascia is
  • The relationship between muscle and fascia
  • How dysfunctional movement patterning can negatively affect our skeletal structure
  • A personal example of how repetitive overuse of imbalanced muscular patterning caused my legs to bow
  • Examples of similar types of bodywork: Rolfing/ Structural Integration, Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI), Wharton Performance Musculoskeletal Therapy (AIS), Active Release Therapy (ART)
  • Self-help methods: Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, Pilates, Yoga, Body Rolling…
  • Listen to The Fuzz Speech by Gil Hedley or read the transcript
  • If you haven’t read the two previous posts view Part 1 here and Part 2 here before reading on.

When I was taking my Pilates Instructor Training Course, so many years ago, I was amazed at how much I didn’t know – boy that sounds arrogant! But it’s true – I was young and of course, thought I knew everything (much like my kids do now). My Pilates teacher, taught me to see with x-ray vision; which means, we were taught to analyze the way overused or underused muscles affected skeletal alignment – just by looking at someone. On the first day of this type of analysis, I remember feeling completely out of sorts: “You see what?” and “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” In time it all became so obvious, how was it that I couldn’t see all this before?

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

– Zen proverb

A quick side note: “The teacher” from my interpretation is not always a physical being. The teacher can be a spoken word or a situation, which contributes to an A-Ha! moment. The former scenario could have happened many times before, but it is at the precise moment when the student is really willing to see or is present, as if the planets have aligned like at the eleventh hour in a cinematic climax, the A-Ha! moment occurs. The teacher (or lesson) was always there, I believe all of our lessons are always circling around us, just waiting for that opportune moment. This idea conjures images of Glinda, the good witch from the Wizard of Oz, and those ruby slippers; Dorothy could have gone home at any time. The Lion, Tin-Man and Scarecrow all tell her that they should have thought of it for her…but Glinda reassures them that it was Dorothy, who had to think of it.

We are simultaneously teacher and student.

What does any of this have to do with doing too many push-ups or downward dogs? Bear with me…First:

1.We need to discuss neck and shoulder alignment.

2.What happens when we do too much of one exercise

3.Why being consistent with less, is more effective

1.We need to discuss neck and shoulder alignment.

The shoulder and neck regions are very complex, being made up of an intricate configuration of bones, cartilage, muscles, fascia, nerves, veins and arteries, which support our every move.

Just look at an example of how complex our internal wiring is (below):

The shoulder blades (scapula, singular and scapulae, plural) need to be well balanced upon the back of our ribcage. There are many muscles, which participate in all our daily movements, which we don’t often think about unless we feel pain in our effort to function.

The rotaor cuff muscles, below (there are four: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis),

originate on our scapulae and insert onto our humerus (the upper arm bone). These muscles can work independently from one another and their main function, which is hugely important, is to stabilize the shoulder joint and provide movement of the arm bone, such as lifting and rotation.

But wait there’s more.

The Serratus Anterior, (above centre, seen here in red) also, happens to be one of my favourite muscles – I may quiz you on that later.

The Serratus Anterior (above and seen below left) combined with the Pectoralis Minor (below left)…

Pectoralis Minor originates on ribs 3, 4 and 5. They insert upward onto the Coracoid Process, which is a bony protuberance at the top of the scapula.

If the other muscle groups are not able to do their job or the Pectoralis Minor is over-compensating, the Pectoralis Minor can contribute in pulling the shoulder blade downward and forward.

…And on the back: Rhomboids, Levator Scapula, Teres Major (below left) and Trapezius (below right) all play a very important role in stabilizing the scapulae.

So all these muscles have to work in concert; like a symphony. Some muscles performing a fantastic crescendo when other sections are easing off into the whispers of pianissimo – this performance is happening ALL the time. This is what we mean when we talk about balance, which is why it is imperative to memorize movements in order to analyze them. As we become more proficient we focus less on how to do an exercise and more on how we feel doing the exercise, taking it to the next level of awareness; transformation comes as our awareness evolves. Exercising in this mind-full way is just not possible while watching TV, listening to music or having a conversation (hearing and having awareness of background noise and sound is very different from active listening). We actually must focus on the task at hand. To be mindful is to be focused.

Balance is something that is alive and is always fluctuating, it cannot be cast in bronze and held in place.

For example: if our Rhomboids are over-compensating for a weakness in our Serratus, the effect when attempting to do a push will then cause the shoulder blades to ‘wing’ (poke upward) causing more of an imbalance.

I have used the following quote before, it is so great that it stands repeating:

“Anatomy studies a projection of the static body, but function in the living requires more than static recognition.”

– Ida P. Rolf

 

2. What happens when we do too much of one exercise?

What happens when we do too much of one exercise, i.e., everyday, but in particular when we strain to squeeze out the last few repetitions beyond muscle failure.

The skeleton becomes compromised, the muscles and fascia can lose their functional slide and glide relationship – they can become stuck – nerves, arteries and veins can become impinged causing the next wave of who knows what…

…[Possibly,] “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome,” [which] can occur after trauma, such as with falls or accidents, which injure the neck/shoulder area, but more commonly the cause is a combination of muscle imbalances, and altered posture. These changes are common in those who spend long hours doing deskwork, or with certain sleeping positions, or improper workout routines.”

Dr John-David Kato DC, MSc, ACSM-RCEP, CSEP-CEP

Read more about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome here.

When this happens the end goal (a healthy, fit, functioning and balanced body) is sabotaged.

When we struggle with push-ups: the head drops forward, the neck muscles and shoulders are straining, this repeated practice is only reinforcing poor alignment. However, some will argue that they feel great. By pushing in the extreme they feel as though they ‘got a real workout’ and they can see the definition in their muscles, so in their mind ‘everything is coming along’.  It takes practice to fine tune pushing hard to our limit versus pushing hard beyond it.

The damage from pushing beyond our limit can have lasting effects, which don’t always surface until much later. Luckily, from what I’ve noticed, the body really does want to be healthy and happy. It has this amazing ability to regenerate. It seems to me that it is often the mind, which is more stubborn. To me, the body is like ‘man’s best friend’, it goes with you wherever, whenever, no questions asked. It will push for you beyond its limits, much like the dogs I see running the trails with their owners. Most dog breeds have no business running long distances, however, they carry-on for their owner, happy to do so, but sadly develop hip dysplasia (or something of the sort) requiring surgery. Most dogs are not meant for long runs, but are rather sprinters, who for themselves determine how much and for how long. Notice how those breeds naturally run in a game of tag only to stop and lay down to recover, then to bound up again to repeat the fun?  These breeds are the original Tabata athletes!

Where was I…

Also, there is a group of neck muscles called the Scalenes – Anterior, Medial and Posterior. (Below) You can see how the Scalenes are very deep within our neck.

The image (below) shows the nerves, known here as the Brachial Plexus (yellow), which pass through the Scalenes, including the subclavian artery, meaning it passes below the clavicle (under the collar bone), which pass again below the pectoralis minor muscle.

This image is intended to demonstrate how delicate our neck and shoulder structure is. And how easy it is to compress our nerves, arteries and veins when our skeleton is intentionally (through exercise) or accidentally (from trauma) pulled out of its optimal and balanced alignment.

Over-tightening of the Scalenes can pull on the Cervical Spine (neck vertebrae) pulling the neck bones forward which causes the head (chin) to tilt upward, Pectoralis Minor pulls the shoulder blades forward causing the shoulders to round, which compress the Brachial Plexus – the group of nerves exiting the neck area which can lead to tingling or numbness down the arms, among other possibilities. This is not good.

If your push up form resembles these two pictures (below), please practice modified push ups from your knees until you have developed a better balance within all the supporting groups of muscles that I have been talking about.

Regardless of my urging, if you insist on doing full push ups please analyze your form and before your body starts to go in this direction (see below), consider making a modification by dropping to your knees. From your knees if your form starts to fail, then stop – accept defeat with good form, that’s what we should be going for – or continue to work your way backwards to each modified version all the way back to the Wall Press. Once fatigued like this, it will surprise you how difficult even a wall push up becomes. It’s not how many you do, it’s how you do them.

Under my 4 Minute Morning heading I have the progressions for learning the correct form for push ups, starting with Wall Press then gradually working towards the full push up. When we skip ahead, assuming we are already strong enough for push ups or other exercises, we miss out on the necessary progressions. By spending time with each progression we develop better awareness of the simplicity and complexity within each exercise.

Help Yourself:

The daily Micro Breaks Stretches that you have been practicing (ah-hem), will support your efforts, by encouraging mobility in the muscles that are getting tightened possibly just from existing, doing some or too many push ups. Also here is another link to view at Wharton Performance: an AIS (Active Isolated Stretch) for Pectoralis Major and Minor. If you click on the Wharton Performance link, you will be taken to their main page, click on the second video on this page, the title is: “Active Isolated Flexibility with Phil Wharton” and skip ahead to 7:05 in the video to view the chest stretch. I do this stretch daily and occasionally many times throughout the day when I find myself waiting on the kids to brush their teeth or something of the sort.

3.Why being consistent with less, is more effective.

When was this idea conceived anyway? The idea that we have to beat ourselves up for hours on end to prove our endurance and therefore our worth? Was it Chariot’s of Fire? When did it happen that we were convinced that we all had to train as if we were professional athletes? By the way, most professional athletes are riddled with overuse injuries…more on that another time.

Hopefully, you’ve already listened to Gil Hedley’s, The Fuzz Speech; Well this is my: Less Is More Effective – Speech. By being consistent with shorter workouts, done every day for the rest of our life, we won’t need to go beyond muscle failure – we just need to go TO muscle failure – I repeat, not beyond. With this in mind we can better focus on our technique and devote more useful time to our stretching routine which will support our structure.

This is another shout out for the short duration High Intensity Workouts. Only 4 – 12 minutes, maybe up to 20 minutes from time to time and sure, keep doing your long cardio workouts if you like them – from time to time – balance it out. But generally speaking, when we are consistent – read: daily – I have found that our body responds better with a short High Intensity Workout combined with regular periods of stretching throughout the day. All of it is important, but in particular, finding the balance with:
  • exercise intensity
  • type of exercise/ variety
  • stretching/Yoga
  • being focused/ mindful
  • ability to access the meditative state
  • eating/nutrition/hydration
  • 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
  • rest and recovery from exercise
  • relationships/family
  • creativity
  • duty
  • chores
  • work
  • play…

Being the natural chatterbox that I am, I have got a lot more to share on this topic (the downward dog part, etc…) and will post it over the next week; A little at a time so you can digest the information before I add on.

What If…? Part 2

This post is a continuation from What If Working Your Butt Off is Making it Bigger?

But before I get going I want to be clear that I do not have any illusions as to knowing anything. To borrow from the old adage: “The more I learn the less I know.”

Since high school I’ve carried with me this Shakespearean quote: “Any fool in error can find a passage of scripture to back him. I don’t know for sure, but I think it has been loosely adapted over the years from “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose,” from The Merchant of Venice. Disregard any biblical reference, just consider the ease with which one can support an argument regardless of right or wrong. It’s easy to ride on the shoulders of giants, whereas it takes much effort to come to one’s own conclusions. And yet how rigid we can become with some of those conclusions, much like how Earl F. Landgrebe famously said: “Don’t confuse me with the facts”, I’ve got my mind made up.

In the previous post I touched upon:

  • How complex our body is
  • What a healthy muscle is
  • The relationship between muscle and fascia
  • What fascia is
  • How dysfunctional movement patterning can negatively affect our skeletal structure
  • A personal example of how repetitive overuse muscular patterning caused my legs to bow

Wabi Sabi

We tend to take offense at the idea that our body might be dysfunctional; as if we were perfect, or rather, that in our state of imperfection we are perfect. From a confidence perspective I understand this…I have kids, I want them to know that they are great no matter what – their imperfections are accepted and they can do anything! What I am talking about here is factual based on anatomy and has NOTHING to do with how great each and everyone of us is. It is this Wabi-sabi which is what makes us who we are. This commentary is not an attempt to change that. Quite simply, I have a fascination with the mechanics of movement and when our structure is not in balance, it is often pain and dysfunction which is the end result. I think we can all agree that living with acute or chronic pain should be avoided – I hope to explain how we can help ourselves eliminate current pain and discomfort, avoid future pain and have a long life of functional movement. Does this make sense so far? No hurt feelings?

Ida Rolf

The more fascia is being understood, the more it is being talked about and studied in traditional massage therapy circles. Ida P. Rolf was one of the pioneers who studied the relationship fascia has on our body’s structural alignment, she called her work ‘Structural Integration.’ Over the years, however, students, practitioners and patients began referring to the work as ‘Rolfing’and by 1979 it became a registered trademark of the Rolf Institute. Many off-shoots from Rolfing exist today and as a result more and more research is being done. We benefit from this.

Similar techniques have names such as: KMI (Kinesis Myofascial Integration) which was developed by Thomas Myers and Wharton Performance Musculoskeletal Therapy,which is the work of Jim and Phil Wharton, their technique is called AIS (Active Isolated Stretching). There is also ART (Active Release Technique). There are so many others of equal merit, but just not enough time for me to reference them all, please feel free to add any in the comment section.

“Anatomy studies a projection of the static body, but function in the living requires more than static recognition.”- Ida P. Rolf

Structural Integration

The reason I have made reference to these techniques is that I want you to understand that this is a legitimate field of work. Oftentimes – for those outside of this circle – the idea of correcting one’s skeletal alignment or lessening chronic pain seems impossible without pain medication or surgery, which embody their own set of complications.

I’d like to finish with an explanation of why doing endless squats or leg lifts can be counter-productive should a persons muscles and fascia not be gliding properly. How the tissue can sometimes be so stuck that other muscle groups end up carrying the load, unbeknownst to the exerciser!  For example, when I would do squats or lunges: because my femurs were stuck in external rotation, my gluteus medius, TFL and hamstrings were taking on most of the workload (not to mention which stabilizing groups were not doing their job). My gluteus maximus was not firing as it should which was taking me more in the direction of the flat buttock syndrome, that is common among ageing women. As a result I noticed that my pelvis had expanded and the head of my femur was not articulating properly in its socket. I’d have clicking in my hip, an over tight ITB which affected my knee mechanics which affected how my lower leg and feet responded to movement. Which affected how my pelvis was balanced, which then affected my lower back on one side and so on…it has quite the domino effect. (Have your eyes started glazing yet?)

Since doing my 4 Minute Mornings (Week 3 – DAY 7) for the last 10 months straight, I have noticed a marked improvement in my pelvis, leg alignment and hip function. The short duration of the slow to moderately paced repetitive movement of bending down and reaching up has been physical therapy for these areas. It is very important to state that it is the short duration that makes the difference. My adductors and smaller supportive/ stabilizing internal pelvic muscles are being retrained when I do the bend down and reach up. I am engaging them to stabilize my femur in a parallel alignment. These weaker muscles can barely last for the four rounds. If I were to carry on longer than 4 minutes (thinking more is better) then I would do myself further disservice – these muscles can only take so much retraining at a time. These muscles need to rest but must be consistently retrained and challenged; hence, daily body maintenance.

I do the bend down and reach up movement with my feet together. I can’t say legs together, yet, because to actually make the sides of my knees connect takes tremendous effort. So rather than force what is not natural, I work with it in increments. I face the mirror and observe my alignment as I go. Every few months I have an A-Ha! moment whereby I notice an improvement, like my legs are actually looking straighter now, and it is becoming easier to keep my legs connected during the exercise, my pelvis is narrowing, my overdeveloped muscles are less developed and I notice a better more balanced muscular aesthetic as well as function. It’s very exciting! The less is more principle really works. Whoever coined that phrase forgot to mention that it’s in being consistent with less, which does the trick.

Also, for years my right leg has seemed just a fraction shorter than my left, (years ago my Pilates teacher pointed it out to me – I’m sure I took offense!). I notice it when I’m in Downward Dog, for example. As I’ve been working on my bend down and reach up exercise, while observing in the mirror I would notice (with irritation) how my right knee would absolutely not line up with the left -during the bend. Just the other morning when I engaged my adductors I made the connection…by reconnecting with my adductors and focusing on the deep muscles of the hip joint my knees levelled out for the first time and I could feel less pull on the usual overcompensating worker muscles. Understand that this was only possible because of the the last ten months of strict daily stretching and rolling out (generally ten minutes before bed) an RMT visit on average once per month and 20-30minutes of Yoga 1-3 times per week. The stretching homework sets the stage for me to be able to engage these underused muscles. Believe me, I’ve been trying to work these muscles for years, and thought I was…now I know the difference.

Now, when I walk, run or swim I can feel how my legs are aligning more fluidly. I can feel the fascia around my right hip and lower back releasing daily, as a result I can feel the domino effect of change affecting the lower leg compartment which is opening up my ankle joints. These changes to patterning don’t always feel wonderful, there can be a kind of dull ache as I work through tissue, but it is no where near the kind of discomfort that comes with pain and injury. There is still a lot of work to do, but to call it work is misleading, this is daily body maintenance.

 

What helps to keep my body functioning is a combination of:

  • Visiting my RMT every three to four weeks
  • Doing my homework stretches which include rolling out my muscles and fascia with my Travel Roller
  • Keep my workouts short but intense
  • Analyze my movement patterns
  • Continue to read my anatomy books

How can you help yourself?

  • Become more familiar with your anatomy.
  • Find an RMT, Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Rolfer, Pilates teacher…anyone who you click with and can establish a working/ collaborative relationship -they are your body mechanic. You can work with many different practitioners, they won’t mind, the more experience you gain the easier you make their job and the better your results.
  • Learn which stretches are beneficial for your body, be it a combination of AIS, Yoga or other
  • Make sure that the stretches you are doing are NOT causing more of an imbalance
  • Start rolling out your body, visit: Travel Roller and view their Instructional Videos or Yamuna Body Rolling

Useful reference books:

“One of the biggest misnomers is that tight muscles are ‘strong’ and loose muscles are ‘weak.’

In actuality, the strongest muscle is one that is the perfect length.” – Katy Bowman

Check back for What If…? Part 3. I will explain some upper body mechanics…how too many downward dogs or push ups can give you a headache among other things.

What If Working Your Butt Off Is Making It Bigger?

A top-down view of a skeletal muscle

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been trying to compose this post for quite some time now. I feel that there is a need for a basic explanation of how our muscles work. Maybe it’s already been written, but I just haven’t found it.

So here goes…

The subject is complex beyond belief and I would err should I give it a simplistic explanation; however, this is for those with very little background in the subject. So forgive me – to all the professionals who may shudder at the following post.

Months ago I innocently left a comment at BodyRock about modifying a workout because my aim was to narrow my hips not expand them.  A few people commented-back: What? You can narrow your hips? So I promised to explain this, but in order to understand it we need to go back a ways. I don’t believe in the ‘bottom-line’, we need back-story and must be well informed to process the bottom-line otherwise we’re just like a fish flailing in a puddle of shallow water – it might look like we’re swimming but we’re so far from doing the same sport.

It can take a lifetime to really get to the root of the following, as with any subject – it is remarkable how the layers continue to unfold as if looking through a microscope. It brings to mind the Origami artist, and in particular Eric Joisel, who “could spend more than 100-hours folding a single piece of paper in order to create his amazing pieces of art.”  Not everyone has passion for details but what if everyone could be more interested in everything they do – from what we eat to how we move, for starters.

The Pilates Method, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique and Emilie Conrad’s Continuum Movement are a few methods that I have spent time studying over the years, some in more depth than others.  When given the chance, these exceptional methods teach functional movement from the foundation.  These methods aren’t meant to be a ‘workout’ but rather the exercises are tools to better comprehend healthy movement patterning, which in the end can only support ones’ workout or sport.

My task is to explain the following for readers who have no background in physical movement and have spent very little time focusing on how their body actually functions. To have succeeded will mean that your eyes won’t have glazed over.

As the title suggests, what if you’re literally trying to work your butt off by doing exercises that you have been led to believe target a certain muscle group, such as doing endless squats in the hopes of minimizing your gluteus maximus?

What if the infinite number of side leg lifts you’re doing, in the hopes of slenderizing your ‘saddlebags’ is actually giving them the appearance of becoming over-full?

Or what if the long endurance walks or runs you do are not giving you the results you are after?

What if, what you’re doing isn’t very effective at all but you console yourself by saying, “well, at least I’m doing something”.  True, some is better than none, but what if, that ‘some’ is literally a waste of time by making things worse?  And by worse I mean dysfunctional movement patterning.

The spin-doctor in me will tell you that there is no such thing as a waste of time, because it seems to be that through failure we learn the most…with the assumption, however, that through failing we search for another solution, rather than just accepting our fate.

You get the idea…there’s a lot of what if‘s.

Oftentimes, we turn to exercise to tighten loose areas of the body.  Everyone seems willing to put in even a little bit of time to tighten body parts.  Yet, very little time for stretching and lengthening muscles. This is the root of the problem.

In order for muscle fibres to function properly they have to be healthy.  So, what exactly is a healthy muscle, anyway?  A healthy muscle at rest should feel like a bag of water, not a bag of steel; however, ‘Butt of Water’ just doesn’t sound all that sexy and doesn’t have much shelf appeal.  Surrounding the muscle is more tissue called fascia.  This might gross you out, so fair warning, but whether you eat chicken or not (perhaps you have prepared some for dinner at some point), when you peel the skin from a raw chicken you may recall a sticky transparent film, which clings to the skin and the meat.  That transparent film is called fascia – and of course it reacts differently when alive.  It surrounds all of our muscles, nerves and organs.  For our muscles to function properly this film of fascia must slide and glide smoothly over the the muscle fibres, nerves and organs.

Alison Coolican, RMT explains that “the sliding happens three-dimensionally, rotationally, up and down.  So in the forearm the tubes of muscles surrounded by fascia must all slide against each other when your forearm twists to allow for lengthening and twisting of the tubes.  The fascia and the muscles are all connected and exist more in a fluid state, some connections are very loose and airy (more sliding) and some are tight and organized (takes more strain)  the muscle fibres must move smoothly below the fascia.  Injury and repetitive movement (whether with correct alignment or not) can impact this fascia/ muscle glide relationship.”

An unhealthy muscle/ fascia relationship would be one whereby the tissue has been, from correct or incorrect repetitive movement or injury, forced into a dysfunctional pattern.  This dysfunctional pattern thereby impacts the correct anatomical patterning of the skeleton in movement.  Have your eyes glazed over yet?

Consider that the body is made up of guy wires (muscles and tendons) which are meant to stabilize our skeleton providing support and function. Over years these structures become over tight in some areas and weakened in others and therefore can affect the way our structure appears and functions.

Personal example: My bowed legs.  BUT as a child I had very straight legs.  Here’s what happened. I started gymnastics at age 4, Ballet and Track from age 7.  By the time I was 18 my legs had started to bow slightly.  At 21, having spent a lot of time teaching Aerobics/ Step/ Spinning and bodybuilding I had over-developed the lateral aspect of my quadriceps and buttock muscles and over lengthened my inner thigh muscles by working on improving my middle ‘Russian’ split.  I had created an imbalance.  This imbalance caused a painful knee condition called Chondromalacia (Patelofemoral syndrome). Which meant that my femur (the thigh bone) would grind into the underside of my patella (knee cap).  The remedy was to re-create balance by strengthening the medial side of the quadriceps (Vastus Medialis Obliquus – VMO) and Adductors, and to stretch the lateral, over tight muscles.

My over tight muscles and fascia were dysfunctional. My skeleton was not functioning as it should, hence the aberration at the knee cap. Later this sticky fascia caused more dysfunction at my right hip and so on.  If something is stuck at one point the body will compensate elsewhere.  Moishe Feldenkrais said it best:

“Force that is not converted into movement does not simply disappear, but is dissipated into damage done to joints, muscles, and other sections of the body.”

Long story short, the physiotherapy worked only to the extent that I truly understood what I was doing and that I took it on as a daily job – this was the beginning of daily body maintenance, I just didn’t know it yet.

For a moment, let’s return to the bowed legs and dysfunctional movement patterning. When I’m out and about I watch how people move – their mechanics. It’s not a judgement, it’s just what I see and I don’t analyze it all the time. When I see people running or cycling, I watch their alignment.  Sometimes I cringe, because I see faulty mechanics which is being repeated and I can feel the pain that will ensue. And other times I see mechanics that make me stop, take my breath away and hear myself say, wow.  It’s rare to see movement that is pure and effortless but you’ll know it when you see it, as you will know it when you feel it.  Have you ever heard someone point out an athlete and say, he or she runs like a gazelle?

Let me just say that even with the gazelle-like athlete, there can still be injury and dysfunctional movement patterning- there is no perfect – just the aim towards it. Our aim with movement, art, literature, what-have-you, is that “once we accept our limits, we [must] go beyond them.” (Albert Einstein).  So in my opinion, from experiencing a lot of physical movement I have found that refining movement is on going.  Knowing that I swim, people come up to me from time to time and state (more than ask), “Boy, I just can’t swim for exercise – don’t you find it boring?”  I am amazed by this because it is often very accomplished athletes who say this.  People whom I imagined would know about refining.  Each stroke for me is a new combination of possibilities – the accuracy of the kick, placement of pelvis, rib cage and head to the rotation of the arms and angle of pull…who has time for boredom, my neurons and synapses are on overdrive. This is not some mindless activity. If we show interest in what we do, we learn from it and can add on and continue to refine.

Which takes me to the next point, but I’m sure your eyes are beginning to glaze over, so I will return with “What If: Part 2” another day and go into more detail about the narrowing of the hips comment.

M. Feldenkrais, Awareness Through Movement, (NY: Harper & Row, 1972), p. 58.