One of the most famous proponents of optimal human movement made that statement and in it’s simplicity lies magic.
Water is powerful. Water can carve through rock and then flow around it where necessary, taking a path of less resistance, able to move effortlessly over and around the most forbidding surfaces. You are “made” of this stuff and you too, have this potential – To carve paths and flow without effort if you can “be” more like the water you are made of.
How to “be” like water:
As well as being made of water, we are also made of stuff (we won’t get into fascia, muscles etc here as we don’t need to know any of that and knowing a little – or even a lot, can disrupt the process in my experience) that gets “stiff”, “tense”, sometimes even “sore”. These are areas of restricted movement within the body, created for many reasons but mostly to protect us from perceived “threats” in all of their various forms. This “stuff” also happens to consist mainly of water so all is not lost, it too can flow beautifully again if you present it with the right stimulus.
If you lie on a hard surface, such as a wooden floor (and don’t worry, i’m not going to suggest you do that – at least not yet in this journey, you may wish to at a later date), you will almost certainly find areas of “tension” – These will no doubt reveal themselves as discomfort, often quite severe, and maybe even pain (it’s best not to move into pain). If a child of 6 or 7 lay on that same floor (or your pet), you can bet they would seem perfectly at home and would have no trouble falling asleep when the time came – And that most of us would be so uncomfortable we’d be lucky to get a few minutes of sleep (at least on the first attempt). This is because we adults (and this is increasingly found with younger adults and teenagers too) typically carry more tension/”baggage” and this is how it reveals itself when presented with such a surface – Something we very rarely do anymore.
The good news is twofold – One, awareness is curative and Two, simply finding a firmer surface, one that reveals enough and yet still allows you to sleep, is a great place to start. When i say awareness is curative, what i mean is that simply making the conscious mind aware of these areas of “tension” will allow the system to start making the neccesary adjustments and sending resources to wherever they are needed. This takes many forms, involuntary movements, semi-voluntary movements (created by causing enough discomfort to make you move, itches that create certain stretches, pandiculation (it could be argued this is involuntary but it matters not for our purposes)) and voluntary movements, which, while being clearly “voluntary” send clear “signals” to make you want to do them – experiencing this is an interesting lesson. All of these movements create a “dissolving” of the tension, a restoration of movement, a lessening of discomfort, a changing of mood through chemical changes and potentially much much more. But don’t believe me, try it and see.
You can even use techniques such as when you find tension, “be there” with it, smile at it (this has a profound effect, not least because smiling is the physical form of acceptance/love and as such, has that effect on the “physical body”, often causing tension to dissolve seemingly without effort). You can even talk to it if you are open to that not being as crazy as it sounds – It’s particularly effective, asking it what it is, what it needs to do etc. And as a good friend always says “It’s crazy enough that it just might work”.
The principle behind this:
When you lie on a soft surface that never gives you the feeling of solid ground (like most beds/mattresses), the body becomes tense to try and create that stability – In much the same way that your foot/ankle complex becomes tense when wearing cushioned shoes because the foot has no stable base upon which to rest (a well known phenomenon).
When you present the body with a firm, flat surface, it has that base – It can start to become like water – It does not need to be tense to create stability. It has to “flow” onto that surface as resistance is painful (and futile) – the surface is not going anywhere – So you (your body) must find a way – And it does this by showing you where needs to be “fixed”/allowed to move more fluidly. And as awareness is curative due to the amazing mechanisms you have within your body, all you have to do is be there with those sensations and watch them work themselves out – With a little movement as discussed above – and you don’t even need to figure that out, it’s all done for you.
A “free” reset for the system:
One of the best things about this is that you don’t have to do anything – No complex attempts to restore optimal movement, no overthinking about whether you are doing something right or wrong, creating more tension – simply returning to sleeping on the kind of surface we would have for most of our history and allowing the body to reset while you rest/sleep (the waking rest part is particularly curative) – It’s a free 7/8/9 hour resetting of the system. Ideally we do this without a pillow and learn to use our arm as one (this is another piece of the jigsaw but as with anything, start where you can and make improvements as and when you are ready). With regards to the surface itself, ideally something akin to a yoga mat on a wooden floor but as stated, start where you can – and if that means a duvet on top of that for a little extra comfort, that’s all good as you still have the firmness necessary for our purposes – And for those of you who sleep with a partner, there are long terms solutions should you find you take to this (and i would suggest that once the benefits are felt, it will be hard to go back), whether that be tatami mats (or foam alternatives) used on a bed frame, very firm futon mattresses or some other solution, there are many available.
It would be easy to wax on about exactly why this works, breaking it down further and further, explaining why being on your side for at least some of the time is hugely curative and so on but that takes us away from the essence of this and it’s simplicity – Spend more time lying on a firm surface without accoutrements and see what happens. It might take a couple of days to feel the change, it might take a couple of weeks – But it will restore you.