I started practicing martial arts (Kempo) at age 15. This was the catalyst for me diving into a variety of holistic mind, body and spirit disciplines. Throughout this journey I observed a lot of people moving. Some people were powerful and strong. Others incredibly flexible. Many were beautiful beyond description.
One of the qualities that impressed me the most in movement was a certain fluidity. An ability for people to move like water - flowing across the floor as though they had been poured that way. It always brought up delicious feelings of ease in my body...
This liquid-like state was something that I only experienced sporadically. Hints of it might show up in my own movement from time-to-time. Almost like some mythical beast. A unicorn leaving clues of it's existence.
Perhaps for a few minutes during Yoga Vinyasa I would enter into this state. Or maybe during the depths of qigong movement meditation. But it was never something I had regular access to.
For me, this watery quality is the benchmark for quality movement. If it flows in this way, then it's likely that other qualities of movement are also available. Like strength, power, speed, flexibility and balance...It was only when I discovered the Feldenkrais Method that I learned how to intentionally create this type of movement.
In this article I would like to share how you can improve your movement in this way. This process helps to create movement that is flowing, beautiful and liquid like.
Improving your movement is a learning process
Over my years of training I have noticed that some people are able to improve rapidly. Others seem kinda stuck. They barely change despite "showing up" repeatedly for years on end.
I'm sure that there's probably some physical differences between these types of people. There's also probably differences in their histories which helps some of them improve faster.
I'm also convinced there's an even larger factor at play - someone's attitude towards learning.
Some people are deeply engaged in the learning process. They are curious, interested and love to explore. These people have the ability to learn, grow and evolve much faster than others who don't really pay much attention or enquire about the process of what they're doing.
If you're interested in improving your movement then its crucial to become a great learner.
Improve Your Learning By Listening To Your Own Experience
When I was about 17, my class at school went for a trip to the zoo. Afterwards, one of my teachers asked me what I thought of it. I don't remember my words, but I do remember expressing 2 opinions which were in complete opposition to one another. It sounded really dumb. My teacher's face contorted as though his brain had just short-circuited. I felt really stupid and tried to end that conversation as quickly as possible.
Afterwards, I started questioning myself. Why did I say something which sounded so dumb? What I discovered was that I had actually just been regurgitating other peoples opinions about the zoo. And they just happened to contradict each other. I had taken on their opinions for no good reason other than I liked the person or thought they were cool.
This taught me the value of listening to myself and checking what's real based on my own experience.
I see people do this stuff all the time where they have picked up a story or an opinion and taken it as true. If I hold onto a story like that then it actually inhibits me from seeing anything other than what's really there.
I see this attitude is prevalent in the world of fitness and movement. There are squillions of different opinions for how to inhabit your body in a good way. Many of these are just regurgitated info that doesn't bear out in real experience.
I used to follow the advice of pulling my stomach in because it "kept my core stable". And that's gotta be a good thing...right???
Turns out it's not the case. Keeping my belly pulled in completely interferes with my breathing, the flexibility of my spine, the connection of my head to my pelvis. Effectively it interferes with every single relationship within my body to varying degree's.
The only way I know this is by exploring deeply and checking in with my own body. Someone else could have told me to release my belly but it would have just been another story. The only way to know is by checking with your own internal feedback.
In a moment I'm going to share some principles of learning. These will all help to increase the quality of feedback that you get from yourself. They are a way of checking in with your own experience to see what is true for you. In essense, they help you to learn from your own experience rather than taking dogma as truth. They are critical skills to know to improve the quality of movement (and life) that you experience.
Principles to improve the process of learning movement (or anything)
Here are the principles of how to learn movement. These are powerful guides to improving your process of life and learning. They might seem quite simple, but it is no easy task to implement them all. I am still working on all of these myself.
Each item (will eventually be) a link to a page which describes the learning principle in more detail.
- How To Improve Your Movement By Using Your Breath
- Improve Your Movement Habits Quickly By Avoiding This One Trap
- Discover Beautiful Flowing Movement By Using Less Effort
- How To Use Questions To Improve Your Movement
- Stay out of pain
- Rest frequently
The best way to learn these principles is by using them
You can start to apply these to things you do in daily life.
Explore deeply - How do you get out of bed?
Can you do it while maintaining continuous breath? Or is there some point in the movement where you hold your breath and heave-ho to get over the hump. How can you use less effort? Could you perhaps slow down and sneak past that moment where you begin to tense up? Could you move like water and pour yourself out of bed?
If you come along to a feldenkrais class then these are the principles you will learn how to work with. You'll be guided through many different movement explorations which train your ability to focus on the process instead of progress.
And in doing so, you may find that you begin to move with more beauty, ease and fluidity.