The Mind-Body Connection: Part 1 [Expert Column]
In 2010, Jordyn Steig founded Wellistic Wholeness to formalise his work with individuals and groups on fitness and natural healthy living. As a personal fitness trainer, his Wonder Workouts offer a refreshing and fun twist on working out. Since then, he has worked with a wide variety of people to help them find their own unique formula to a balanced, healthy, and physically fit lifestyle. His motto: Designing healthy living, especially for you.
Our muscles' collective recollections tend towards the indelible; increasingly difficult to erase or alter as patterns of movement become more and more engrained in our muscle memory the more we repeat them.
As our bodies change ever-so slightly every day, so does the way we move and the way in which those movements ripple through our bodies. Think of it like the Buddha's idea that you can never step in the same river twice. The only way for us to keep up with this onslaught of micro-changes is through mindful body awareness, the mind-body connection embedded in our muscle memory.
During a pull-up or a surya namaskar, if you are tense from a stressful day at work or a disagreement with a friend or family member, you may hold the tension in your shoulders, back or neck. Since pull-ups and surya namaskars activate all these muscles and joints, the precise location of the extra tension in your muscles each day alters the way the invisible insides of your body coordinate to complete these complex motions. This is equally important as you move your body in routine, daily life, like when you bend down to pick up your child or your briefcase. What felt trouble-free yesterday could prove problematic today if we are not closely attuned to our bodies.
Unfortunately the design of many of our modern conveniences -- like cars, phones, laptops, hand-washing basins, and even western toilets -- don't account for the vast variety of human physiology, indirectly encouraging patterns of movement which harm us when done repeatedly. No wonder it often seems as if most educated urban dwellers who own those objects suffer from one musculoskeletal malady or nagging, recurring pain or another.
Functional training teaches the body how to move correctly by strengthening, lengthening, and mobilising the very muscle sets and joints which tend to become weakened or strained by motions like getting in and out of cars which are very low to the ground, or craning our necks and bending our wrists awkwardly as we spend endless hours on our laptops. One of my exercise I conjured up which induces grins from many people mimics the motion of you putting on your pants or salwar every day. With physiologically proper form, of course!
Each of us are assembled differently. Not only do we come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, our internal interconnections join together in a slightly different manner. From the shape of your feet to the length of your legs (did you know that most people have legs that do not weigh the same, and often are of different lengths as well?) to the ways your bones and joints hinge together at slightly variant angles, with different thicknesses to boot, it is abundantly evident that we all do not come from a single mold. This is one of the primary reasons the same exercise impacts each person differently.
The difference in results between those who genuinely understand their workouts and those who simply do them is astounding. As a trainer, I can only ask you where you feel the effort in an exercise, tell you where in your body it is designed to work, and gently correct you if it seems you may harm yourself.
The process of getting to know our own bodies always proves rewarding, a lifelong affair of wonder consistently reaping us priceless returns.