Take a moment and turn your head to look behind yourself to one side, and then to another side.
How far can you see? How smooth is the movement? At which point do you start sensing tension and resistance? Do you listen to it and stop before it becomes too strong or do you push right through?
A simple movement one might think, and so many questions.
If you look at animals, the ability to move their head around largely defines their survival chances. So, they not only use the head, but the whole body participates, making each turning of the head smooth and elegant movement.
Unfortunately, it is no longer so for humans.
With the industrial revolution and even more so with the increased dependence on computer use for living, the range of motion of our head stays very limited for prolonged periods of time.
Have you ever noticed how all the muscles of your body tense up when you are focused on these small letters on the screen in front of you?
Our eyes guide the movement of our head, and the tonus of the eyes is in direct relation with the tonus of the muscles of the neck.
This is normal in a natural environment where for short periods of time you need extreme focus to survive (hunting for food or escaping danger). Keeping that focus for prolonged periods of time, however, comes at a cost.
The ability of high focus from this perspective is both a blessing and a curse.
Take your gaze away for a moment, and look onto the horizon for a couple of seconds to relax your eyes.
You can also close your eyes with your hands and look into the darkness to release eye tension. Try it.
By learning to use some parts of our body more than others, we have created imbalance and changed the way in which different parts are connected or disconnected.
Most of the time we use our head (eyes) and our hands to perform specific detailed tasks while keeping the rest of the body separated, often close to motionless. This leads to enormous strain in those highly engaged parts and weakening in the parts not used, creating even more imbalance.
Whenever I talk to a client who complains about muscular tension in a specific place, I always look at and work with the body as a whole. There is often a tendency to think that if the pain is in that specific muscle (or group of muscles) one should primarily treat that specific place of complaint.
While to some extent it might be true, a much more interesting approach is to ask yourself “What are the “neighbours” which do not do their part of the job and cause this poor guy to carry all the load?”
You see, when you have shoulder pain, for example, there may be plenty of reasons for it (including medical ones, for which you should check with your medical doctor before anything else).
But when it comes to muscle-strain-related pain (be that because of the injury, bad posture crunching in front of a computer screen or anything else) I often find that person’s habitual way of using the shoulder is limited to muscles located immediately around the shoulder.
It no longer includes the layers of neighbouring muscles between the shoulder blades and those all along the spine down to the pelvis as it was naturally designed to be.
For many people, it comes as a surprise when they learn that they can use their pelvis for reaching out with their hands, for example.
There is of course a whole other layer to this. Accumulated stress, fear and sub-continuous disregard for the body's signals often lead to the creation of chronic pain and add to the above.
This is a whole separate topic, for which reducing body patterns of stress and anxiety comes an important step. But, to cut the story short here, it aggravates the disconnectedness of the different parts of the body even more.
Therefore, in the Mindful Movement practice, we work with the body as a whole, learning to connect and engage different parts in a natural way for a variety of movements. We look to create the “neighbour support” which is needed for the overstrained parts to release and recalibrate the effort.
We do it in a slow and gentle manner, paying attention to staying within our comfort zone to avoid triggering any fear-related defence mechanisms that can aggravate the tension.
This is why this work can be helpful for anyone, from elderly people to professional athletes.
In these lessons, we enlarge the map of our abilities through movement experience starting from right where we are, exploring what is already available to us, and improving through it.