Infinite Possibilities (The importance of slow movement).

Awareness is curative. Being in that space we call “the now”, “being present” – It is a place of infinite possibilities. When you truly drop into this space, you can see that literally any path is available to you. It is a place of healing, a place of transformation. It is a place of awareness. Where you place your awareness is where you place your energy, your resources. Quite simply, being aware of something gives it “life”.

In the realms of healing/wellness/performance (a sliding scale of sorts), this awareness can be a powerful tool and is known to help the healing/improvement process – whether we call it “mental”, “physical”, “emotional”, “structural” or otherwise, simply being present with (aware of) something helps it to recover and/or improve. To ENGAGE with it. Bringing what we call the conscious mind to that which needs upgrading brings resources with it, intelligent resources that know exactly what to do, we just have to be the light showing the way.

So, in a world where being distracted is so easy, how does one bring awareness to something? By simply slowing down, by “being” – It is after all, in the description of what we are, “human be-ings”. And yes, i know it’s easy to say that and not always so easy to do. It can be a challenge, which is why regular practice is such a useful tool to create a “habit” or as i prefer to call it, a movement pattern.

More powerful still is when we become truly present or aware within that practice. Because if we are truly aware within that movement, as mentioned above, we bring intelligent resources to that which requires improvement. And in the realm of movement (which essentially covers everything we “do” but that’s for another day), if you want to become truly aware of what is going on within your movement, all you have to do is slow it down. I know that sounds obvious because it is – And that’s the magic right there. Slowing down any movement (particularly when under load of some kind), makes it impossible not to be aware. To feel every little detail. And depending on the movement and/or the load, this can create a lot of feeling – a lot of awareness – Without having to think “i need to be aware of” – You just are. When we feel something, like you (almost) certainly will if you try crawling slowly, we can’t not pay attention to what’s going on. And it’s this awareness that sends those resources and activates those mechanisms to heal/improve that which might need some attention/optimisation. And if crawling slowly is too much to handle right now, you can start wherever you feel ready to. You could go really subtle and move your hands really slowly while watching them move and feel the tingle that starts to flow through them. Or, for something more intense, do a really slow lunge or squat type movement and watch and feel what happens, pausing throughout “the movement” until you feel those corrective mechanisms do their thing – Quite often mild tremors/shakes will occur and then move or settle as the upgrades begin, unravelling, aligning. strengthening You stay still and yet the body moves – Movement within stillness. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, the body fixing itself in real time, right before your eyes.

And that’s it really – The knock on effects of this are much further reaching but it’s not for me to tell you what that looks like as we are each different n different seasons, it’s for you to experience. But within each of those moments of slowing down/stillness are truly infinite possibilies to “level up”. So, move slowly whenever you can and see what happens.

Much love

Andrew

Be like water my friend (through correct sleeping).

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.

“Tension”:

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.

Much love

Andrew

The face is the mechanism.

The muscles and fascia of the face are the mechanism that tells our system how we feel about what we experience. From tiny facial movements we create how we feel about “life”.

Try this – Look at something about which you have no “emotional attachment” – Maybe a wall, or curtain – or a box – unless of course you have a box fetish (i’m sure someone does somewhere – you’ll find no judgement here, enjoy those boxes) – When you look at it, smile and pay attention to how you feel. Now stop smiling, “pull” (adopt) a ” straight face” and now see how you feel. I’m guessing it was noticeable. This us a very basic example of how those movements of the face create how we feel “emotionally” – our “mood” – which becomes our behaviours.

Another example of this is the following – And to be clear, i’m not expecting you to be able to keep a straight face the next time you hurt yourself, but if you remember this the next time you do, notice what your face is doing (scrunching up, “wincing” no doubt if you’ve just banged your toe or head or some other part of you has taken a knock) and if you can, bring your attention to “pulling” a straight face (focusing on the top lip helps hugely here, hence the expression “stiff upper lip”). I will wager that it hurts less within moments. This applies to “e-motional” pain too as it”s the same energy being interpreted in a certain way, a way defined by our physical “make up”.

Information comes into the system (the human mindbody – “us”) in many ways – Essentially, in the form of what we will call energy for the purposes of this article – This takes many forms, existing at many different frequencies – our frequency dictating what information we receive and how we interpret it. It is in food, light entering our eyes, “vibes” given off by other people and all around us in “the ether” – It is everywhere.

How we react to this information is where the magic happens. One persons interpretation being different to the next – Your interpretation (potentially, depending on how you “feel”) on one day being different to the next. As we experienced above, with the same information (the wall, or curtain), we felt differently because of the expression that was created with our face. This is because the facial muscles are connected to the nervous system via the facial nerve and trigeminal nerve (and so on), which send huge amounts of information into the system, telling it what to produce chemically (pineal gland, pituitary and so on) and therefore how to feel, allowing us to respond appropriately. If you smiled at the proverbial sabre toothed tiger that we hear so much about when talking about fight or flight, your body would not produce the necessary chemistry to enable you to take off really fast – Maybe your smile would soothe the big cat and there would be no need to run as it purred, making “flight” unnecessary but you get the idea.

So, information comes into the system in many ways – And the face is the major player in turning information received into how we perceive that – After all, your “perception” of anything is affected by how you feel and how you feel is dictated by what we call chemistry (and energy, although these obviously overlap as one is the other, only by a different name and in a particular form) and as we have seen, the face has a huge influence over what chemistry is produced/secreted. So, what we “do” with our face has a huge impact on how we feel about what we experience and therefore, how we think and behave and therefore who we “are”.

All very well you might say but i can’t just change my face, i’m not John Travolta (movie reference for those not aware of the surely Oscar winning Face Off – I missed the Oscars that year so i’m not sure if it won – Come to think of it, i’ve “missed” them every year).

Aha, but you can – Or at least you can change the composition of it, release some of that “tension” (real name restricted movement/energy “block”, that’s for another piece though) – And even better news, tension anywhere within the physical body will affect the face as not only does this restricted movement come with it’s own expression of chemicals from within the muscles (lookup myokines, cytokines etc if you wish to know more), the network of fascia “connecting” the muscles to the nervous system (yes, it’s an overly simplistic description but it suits our purposes here) acts partly like a web and when you pull one part of the web tight, it affects the whole structure – Think if you will of a t shirt – if you grab it around your naval area and start to twist it, you’ll very soon feel it get tight across the shoulders, back etc. So, releasing (excessive) tension from anywhere will have a positive affect on redistribution of optimal tension across the network. There are exercises you can do to work directly with the face and release these (often not visible) restrictions but that’s for another day – for now let’s let the understanding sink in as then all methods and modalities can become effective. Awareness is key.

This could obviously be taken to a very “deep” level, we could discuss all of the factors that affect how our facial muscles are right now, from factors pre-natal, birth, post natal and beyond – And while we might find clues as to what would be particularly helpful exercises for us to do to help specific situations, you will probably find that good old awareness helps to fix most things – Simply bring your awareness to the face (the top lip is again a great starting place but anywhere you are “drawn” to will do – eyes closed at first helps) and watch it start to correct itself.

I wouldn’t feel right after writing that if i didn’t leave you with a couple of “exercises” you can try so here goes:

  1. Breathing in through the nose, smile as you breathe in and form a pucker/”kiss” as you breath out (still through the nose). Play with this, allow your face to stay in one place if that’s what it feels like doing, switch the smile and pucker for the in and out breaths, have fun with it. Hold the pucker for as long as you can and feel it (naturally) melt.
  2. Form a pucker and bring the tip of your tongue into that area, as if it were a sweet you were sucking – pretend you are sucking it (start really slowly) and watch what happens to your breathing and how you feel, especially after you allow the face to relax again. Again, be playful, experiment with what feels good to you. These are like facial resets and as with any part of the body, resets are good. There are many more you can do too but you’ll find them soon enough.

 

Much love

Andrew

 

 

Movement is everything and everything is movement.

Everything in the “universe” is comprised of moving “particles” of some form or another – The relationships between them being dependant on how they move – What frequency/wavelength, what direction, what speed and so on. And so it is that you are comprised of tiny particles moving around too – you are a part of all of that which “is”. This sounds obvious when you hear it, however, we seem to have forgotten when it comes to it’s application in our every day lives.

Be it “matter”, be it “energy”, be it something in between – Everything you are – and everything you “do”, is movement of one form or another. When we talk about movement, most people instinctively think of “gross” movements like walking, running, swimming, dancing etc etc – On a less obvious level we have, lets say, talking – and listening, things that we don’t necessarily associate with “movement” – and yet involved in these “activities” are a large number of bodily parts moving – In talking alone, a staggering array of muscles/fascia and other body parts to make even a simple sound – And with listening, so many “working parts” of the ear/inner ear moving, as well as the tiny movements of the musculature of head and face as we react to what is being said with facial expressions – Neurons “firing” across the brain in response to the information entering the system via your “senses”.

All of this is movement of tiny particles in different patterns. The flow of blood, lymphatic and cerebro-spinal fluid, messages travelling through the nervous system and so on – Even “chemicals” combining in different ways and changing from one form into another due to heat or some other energy source being introduced – Again, all movement of tiny particles – All that you “are” is moving and changing and so is everything around you.

The role of the brain:

Every decision you make is about whether to move and if so, how and where to. Your brain (the one in your head that is, not the so called “gut brain”) is, if a little simplistic a description, a “processor” and “decision maker” – It takes information in through the senses, “scans” the physical matter of your body (which plays the role of acting as your “hard drive”, having access to all of the beliefs/stories/fears/trauma that are part of your “story”) and then projecting your “reality”. Based on this “reality”, decisions are made regarding whether to move and if so, what move to make next – What to say – Whether to run, whether to fight, or, whether to “freeze” and hope the danger goes away. Basically, the brain takes in information, scans the hard drive and then decides whether to and how to move – That is it’s job, simple as that (Neuro scientist Daniel Wolperts TED talk from a few years ago is a fun introduction to this).

Once a decision to move is made, another is made immediately about how to (and whether to) continue moving – Moving with confidence or moving with fear, every nanosecond another decision – another movement – or not – made based on the information coming in through the senses and being “combined”/cross referenced with the information already “stored” (in reality the restrictions in movement (fears, beliefs) within the physical body affect the information that is available to us from the field and how we interpret that)) within the “system”. Whether moving with fear across that mountain ridge or not speaking our truth to someone for fear of how they may react – All are restricted movement – “trapped” energy/e-motions.

It can help to look at it this way – When a decision is made not to move – or to move with “fear”/caution/trepidation etc, those tiny particles we discussed above pull (tightly) together (a mini “freeze” response) in an effort to protect you from a perceived fear. In the same way that you curl up into a ball when the “freeze” response is activated, this happens on a smaller scale too. After each cell in the body is, in many ways, a miniature representation of the larger body/brain. When in fear, the system either fights, takes flight or freezes, depending on the nature of that fear – Many of our modern world fight, flight or freeze situations are not flight or flight at all (think wanting to speak up in  a meeting at work but not doing so for fear of repurcussions or looking silly) so the only response is freeze – or in this case, just not move/speak. This is what your system (you) does – If you stay still, you can’t do something wrong.

This happens at both a gross and (extremely) fine level. Imagine if you will, a football sized space with 100 particles in it and 50 pull closely together in a “freeze response” to restrict movement – a miniature freeze response which can (and does) happen all over the body, wherever fears/beliefs/”trauma” exist – We can literally see (and often feel) these clusters in muscles and fascia. I won’t get into how most seem clustered in certain locations (especially the psoas) for now as that is an essay of it’s own, looking at “muscle” types/function and why the system “chooses” to store many of these restrictions in certain places so as to keep us as optimal as possible for as long as possible. Anyway, let’s get back to those clustered particles in the football sized space – Those that are very close together don’t move in the way they would in a “healthy”, (almost) “fearless” system – There is excessive “friction” between them. You could imagine this as too many people crammed into a small space. Not a major problem for a brief period but not so good over time, with anger building and friction increasing as they jostle for space, “rubbing each other up” the “wrong” way. At the same time, while there are too many in one space, there is a “void” nearby, where these same particles can’t communicate properly, being too far apart, causing you to lose feeling in that area. You could use the same analogy with people again, only this time they can’t communicate clearly due to excessive distance – they can’t hear each other. Too tightly pulled together, too much feeling, too “loosley” distributed, not enough feeling – Even though the reality is more likely that information travelling through water from cell to cell can’t do so as effectively in this situation.

The areas we are talking about may be small (in many cases) to the human eye but the principle is still the same – the distribution of the “particles” that make up who you are is off – and it’s affecting your chemistry/blood flow etc.

These restrictions of movement require energy to maintain – energy that is no longer being sent in optimal amounts to other places – Places it is required to both fix, maintain and optimise your system. This (obviously) also affects blood flow, the nervous system, the lymphatic system, the endocrine system etc etc – Other things that require (“are”) movement – It’s all part of the same system so when one part is not performing optimally, it must affect other areas, even if not hugely noticeable at first. A very simple example is that when there is discomfort or pain somewhere, this causes certain muscles on the face to tighten and express certain chemicals – This is what we do, we “pull faces” to send a message to the system about how we feel – which in turn makes you feel differently through altered chemistry, which affects where blood flows, your breathing, how your auto-immune system performs etc etc – “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone” and so on.

Wherever you find restricted movement, you will find what we often refer to as “tension” (and inflammation), which is a change in the composition/frequency of your physical matter in such a way as to make it perform/move sub-optimally – With you eventually becoming unwell or “feeling poorly” which is exactly what it says on the tin – Not being able to feel something well. And when you can’t feel something, you can’t control it – there is no stability upon which everything else can be built. As already stated above – Too tightly pulled together, too much feeling, too “loosely” distributed, not enough feeling.

The chemistry that is created by this restricted movement (Whether that be “tight” facial muscles feeding a certain message to the pituitary/pineal glands via the facial/trigeminal nerves – or the expression of other chemicals due to tight/restricted muscles/fascia anywhere else on the body – myokines, cytokines etc etc) results in even more restricted movement as “fear” increases due to how you feel – Which is “driven” largely by your chemical “state” –  and more energy is given to that fear – more energy diverted to restricting movement with the aim of keeping you “safe”. A “downward spiral” of sorts.

It is widely believed by many experts that the psoas is the “seat of the soul” – where much of the information (fears/beliefs etc) stored within the system is “held”- This makes a lot of sense, not least because the psoas is the location where movement in spine based organisms (of which we are one) originates once the brain has made a decision to move. It is also a logical place to store such information, near where movement originates once a decision to move (or not) has been made.

So, everything is movement. And we can change the way things are by changing our movement patterns. Simply seeing them as movement patterns changes the game as the very structure of our being changes with changed patterns of movement – In the same way that the structure of muscles (fascia/ligament/tendon/bone) changes with repetitive use in a particular way, the movement of neurons changes with various practices and “habits”.

So whether it’s the way we “think” or the way we “move”, movement patterns become just that – Patterns, habits. At the end of the day, they are both movement. How best to optimise this (in my opinion) is for another day (although it’s fairy obvious, start moving in lots of varied ways!) but once you truly grasp the reality of everything being “particles” – or waves, whatever works for you) moving and that you can influence that – in many different ways – then things start to look very different.

 

Thanks for reading, see you next time.

 

Andrew