Conscious Movement Coaching for Functional Fitness and Well-Being

 
 
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In a previous article  on 'barefooting' I mentioned that my experience with increased use and resulting 'foot exercise' has changed the shape, strength, size as well as arches of my feet, I sense in a corrective way from being primarily shod most of my life.  While standing, our pelvis/pelvic girdles, legs and feet can be perhaps thought of as the 'guided' foundation of our evolved upright postural position and movement, which is a big deal really although taken for granted.  Intelligent and appropriate barefooting in my experience can help to recreate a wider/happier 'toe' area, especially across the metatarsal area.  Along with shifting the weight-bearing focus more to the ball of my foot with increased 'spring' and strength  as well as widening the base of this area of the foot has proved to enhance my upright balance...playful self help ; )  

Posture, as a functional position and movement relates more broadly to our body image, sensory (kinesthetic) awareness, structural control, stability, alignment, balance and mobility in space (use).  Postural evaluation I believe would benefit from a more systems/holistic view than the single common upright position generally measured regarding healthy use. One such systems approach evolved years ago by Dr. Robert Manatt Martin MD who suggested six basic 'human' postures or functional bodily movements in two categories.  

The first common postural group produces compression and shortening of stature and the second uncommon posture group produces the opposite forces, those of elongation or decompression.  The six positions: standing, lying down, forward bending, back bending, inversion (eg. hand stand) and brachiation (eg. hanging by our upper limbs), which in my view represents a more complete and useful picture of our postural health and ability.  He relates: "...how the uncommon postures, when properly employed, will counter and correct the damaging effects produced in the body by gravity from exclusive use of the common (compressive) postures."  In other words, it seems it may be beneficial to get down n' active and up and fully engaged like the playful beings that we can be.   Playful yoga class anyone?

In terms of positioning of the pelvis in 'space', my view or 'normal' in the last few years from mat work, reading and an n=1 case study has changed some/evolved.  From the more vertical positioning of the pelvis that I 'learned' from anatomy labs and classes as well as movement teacher training I now prefer a more natural or ancestral position where my pelvic 'bowl' is gently tilted forward (or same as sticking my butt out a bit ; ).  I feel this positional shift of the pelvis along with changes to my feet has helped to promote a stronger and healthier functional posture, especially sitting and standing.  These changes have also included a breathing pattern improvement- more freedom for natural abdominal (diaphragm activated) and thoracic breathing which I feel has promoted a more relaxed yet alert state of embodiment (so...good for someone like me more prone to anxiety;).  

Esther Gokhale refers to this pelvic angle as the "anteverted position" of the pelvis.  Philip Pawley, a knowledgeable Alexander Method practitioner recommends 'sticking out our butt when seated' for genuine good posture  SmilingBackMethod site.  

Also helpful for upright posture is imagining a link between the lower ribs/navel and tail bone (which helps 'constrain' the arching of the spine and opening upwards of the ribs), an active and vital diaphragm muscle, the feeling/visualization of a strong upright spinal column, an 'open' heart/chest topped with 'wide' relaxed shoulders with the scapula (shoulder blades) located or moving 'neighbourly' with the back rib cage area.  

I'll finish this post by leaving you with three upright standing posture suggestions/understandings:

Feet: for most of us shod folks it would assist our upright standing and walking posture well by naturally widening the area of the foot at the base of the toes through barefoot use (foot exercise; ) and/or using toe spacer exercises or products.

Pelvis: when standing or sitting many would benefit from a more natural 'slightly tilted anteriorly' pelvic position, again more along the lines of 'allowing your butt to stick out some'. Also remember to use well your 'core' support through the transverse abdominal girdle and accompanying back muscles, particularly the erector spinae muscle group and by the imaginary diagonal line between your anterior lower rib cage and tail bone.  

Chest and Shoulders:  healthy shoulder/arm and chest position in my view is way enhanced by strengthening movements and functional use such as Dr. Martin recommended (he was an accomplished gymnast); so a variety of postural positions (or variations that you can manage ;) such as arm balancing (inversion) and weighted pulling like pull ups/chin ups or pushing like push ups can be of benefit.  Mostly, we would benefit from functionally strengthening up our upper back; it's a benefit in my view to 'seat' our shoulder blades to our back rib cage area. This supports a more open chest and I would add a more open heart and 'human' presence.  Soo... shoulder girdles stable yet relaxed ; )

Intention, Attention and Awareness as a bonus: Remember to pause during your day, perhaps while taking tea to centre and realign through these inner 'sensibilities'. These 'meditative moments' can be a valuable 'practice' to help maintain/recreate an upright postural 'home-base' while standing or sitting during your day.

What postural tips, suggestions and understandings might you recommend to add to the conversation?  

Towards living a healthy, wholesome and happy life,
Don

 
 
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'Playful' Walking Workout
I've noticed in my life when there is the energy and lightness of play in my 'inner fitness' practice (aka yoga and meditation), physical fitness endeavors, kitchen productions and my personal and business relationships that I feel I can express myself more authentically.  Play seems to open the door to spontaneity and creativity.  

But not the earnest endeavour that seems to unfold from 'play ball', rather more the playground experience of free play or even the more structured play of games that may involve a verse, a rhythm or repeating controlled movements or like the natural energy and flow of a stream finding its way downhill.    

Peter Gray, an evolutionary psychologist, wrote an article on the value of social play in hunter-gatherer societies:
        
   " Hunter-gatherers everywhere seem to have been acutely sensitive to the possibility that, at any time, hierarchical, dependent, dominance relationships could arise within their society and destroy the equality and unselfish sharing upon which their survival depended. To prevent that from happening, they developed cultural practices aimed at reinforcing their egalitarianism and nipping in the bud any tendencies toward hierarchy and domination. To me, the striking, unifying aspect of the practices they developed lies in the degree to which they involved play or playfulness."

Kids in urban areas of course often use playgrounds for free play- monkey bars, swings and climbing domes for example.  And yes, this is purposefully structured developmental physical and social play and it's generally outdoors in natural light in a green space or park-like setting.

Soo...one of the ways of incorporating some play into staying fit as an adult is reclaiming some of that youthful spontaneity and fun by participating in a walking workout.  For example, my walks around my neighbourhood are sometimes upgraded to 'survival' refresh fun-during appropriate seasons-by including some picnic bench yoga moves and some barefoot earth walking/sprinting.   As well I've also located a few trees with appropriate branches for pull ups/chin ups and add in sets of dips on suitable benches along the route.  Also it's been fun for me doing this with friends and/or family members, it has included activities like spontaneous dashes, rock tossing, leap frogging and cartwheeling across the local tundra (aka soccer fields ; ).  For now, it's dashing through the snow season though.

What's your experience with playful activities and keeping fit?

Towards being happy, healthy and wholesome
Don


 
 
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Minimalist Footware
"Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free...", so begins one of my current favourite hymns, a Shaker dance song by Elder Joseph Brackett; circa 1848...  I enjoy using it to close out my barefoot yoga classes of late.

I'm pleased to notice lately I'm feeling this way as I spend more time living with less, some by choice, some through circumstances of late.  I've been happily shifting to putting more of an effort walking, biking and trekking about my town.  I've been choosing less shoe time when conditions warrant it for the last several years, at least during the unwinter months. 

My gait pattern has shifted gradually to accommodate a softer mid sole landing and at times a 'soft' heel to toe pattern versus a more pronounced heel to toe foot 'strike' pattern I've been accustomed to.  I'm liking the shorter stride length and more alert/instinctual walking pattern; it's allowed me to successfully resume running again, as in some jogging.  Prefer more sprinting though as I'm more for ancestral type of workouts of late, works better and time wise much more efficient.

My daughter Surya gifted me a pair of minimus New Balance shoes this summer, which I'm really liking...how cool is that?  One difference I noticed is that my feet seem to have changed shape some, requiring upsizing to accomodate a larger width across the metatarsal area; my feet have 'unsprung'.    

Barefoot versus being shod in my view and experience as a trainer and yoga teacher-at least some of the time-can help to generate a more tactile cognitive sensation when standing, practicing postures or mobility movements that in my view enhance balance, upright posture, helps create better stability and core engagement. Dr. William A Rossi, a former podiatrist and advocate of natural footware seems to agree: 

     "In  shoe wearing societies a visibly faulty gait can often be corrected and made normal, but it can never be made natural as long as conventional shoes are worn. It is biomechanically impossible because of the forced alterations from the natural in foot stance, postural alignment, body balance, equilibrium, body mechanics and weight distribution caused by shoes."

The good news is, at any age we know from research the human body in it's wise with effort can refresh and renew healthier patterns and habits.  The barefoot discussion is on, sooo... here's some of the science, the why behind barefoot movement, originally I saw this link on Paul Kedrosky's web site.

In closing, I recollect enjoying the simplicity and freedom of walking barefoot to the beach from our family's cottage at West Hawk Lake  back in flatland  as a lad; I noticed that my feet would toughen up during the summer months.  Always liked the feeling of walking on moss at the edge of the trail and then walking on the exposed tree roots along the pathway to the beach and finally the warm sand and cool waters edge.  

Full circle memories.  

Towards being happy, healthy and wholesome,
Don

 

    Author

    Greetings, my name is Don Carmichael, the conscious core strength guy.  I'm grateful and happy to offer up my work as a holistic Kinesiologist.  My wish is that this type of work through gentle collaboration will encourage, inspire and support awakening your sense of embodied well being: stronger, leaner, healthier and happier at home and at work.

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