Have you ever just watched people move? How is that some people move with such ease and coordination while others look like they’re struggling to cross the street, get out of their car, or bend over to pick something up? How about athletes who can twist and turn their bodies in unimaginable ways and still make it look easy?
It’s not about just working out! It’s about focused, mindful practice of better movements that prepares you for successful interaction with your environment.
The Athlete’s Body
Athletes have a remarkable sense of awareness and control. They train their brain, which allows their body to function with such a high degree of coordination and skill.
An athlete not only moves well, but also looks healthy – tall posture, strong muscles, and a lean body. We want to look like them but don’t realize that their physical structure is the result of the way they move. Their bodies have adapted to exactly what they do. And without realizing it, so has yours! But your adaptations may not be in a way that promotes injury prevention, optimal movement, sports performance, or a healthy body composition.
“The body ALWAYS adapts to EXACTLY what it does.” Dr. Eric Cobb
Function Maintains Structure
Most people don’t think of themselves as athletes. Therefore, we don’t realize the importance of training the brain to reduce pain and optimize movement in our spine, pelvis, and limbs, and of stressing our bodies to adapt in a positive way.
As we lose function, our bodies change in a way we think of as “aging”. We’ve all seen people become bent with age – something that doesn’t happen in 1 to 6 months. Our entire body reflects what has happened to us during our lifetime. Surgeries, injuries, scars, poor postural habits, and even our thoughts and emotions can all negatively impact on our mobility and function.
When Injury Becomes Habit
Typically we are not aware of how well we don’t move. The brain can lose its ability to sense how different body parts feel due to old injuries, surgeries, and poor posture. The result is a disconnect between the brain and the body and we lose the ability to move efficiently.
An example of this could be a simple ankle sprain. Think back to the last time you injured an ankle, sprained or not. You likely shifted the way you walked over to your “good” foot and ankle in order to avoid feeling the pain and to protect the injured side. Compensations like this become automated very quickly and get wired into our brain and then problem occurs down the road when we keep those dysfunctional movement habits long after the injury has healed.
“Sensory motor amnesia is a memory loss of how certain body parts feel and how to control them.” Thomas Hanna
Pain Lives in the Brain
“Ohhh, my bad knee flared up again, which is weird because I don’t remember doing anything to it.” But just because your knee hurts does not mean your knee is the problem.
“He who treats the site of pain is lost.” Dr. Karel Lewitt
We’ve been taught to believe that the site of pain is the cause of the problem so maybe we stretch it, ice it, brace it, or take a pill. And then it feels better – for a while. But, pretty soon we’re back to square one because the pain is just our brain trying to get our attention by making pain our action signal for change. The body as a whole is out of balance and the “weak link” may be taking the brunt of the strain.
Change the Brain, Change the Body
Changing the way you move requires targeting the brain, the control center of all movement. The brain needs better information in order to make decisions about how to move more skillfully, efficiently, and quickly. This information comes from your joints – which accurately sense where our body is in space – as well as from your eyes, which load the brain with visual cues about our environment.
By having a good head on your shoulders, your brain will allow full expression of movement with positive changes in pain level, gait, posture, flexibility, strength, coordination, and sports performance. And long-term, it helps maintain your structure!
“Man is an architect, the builder of himself.” Emerson
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