Have you ever felt like a big change in your body happened overnight? One day you were a high school football player or track star and seemingly the next you are sitting in a cubicle sluggish and overweight? In an age of incredible technology where information moves at the speed of light and life does too it’s easy to get swept up in the current without paying much attention to the small things, like the state of your body. I am a big fan of listening to music when I run, am not opposed to treadmills with built-in TVs, and think those stationary bike/ video game combinations are pretty cool. However, in any fitness regimen I do think it’s important to occasionally rid yourself of distractions and focus on your movement. You may have heard the phrase “inhabiting your body”. At first it sounds kind of silly (what other choice do we have, aren’t we kind of forced to do that?) But think about it….how often do you really take inventory of every physical sensation? How often do you notice the feel of the ground (or treadmill) beneath your feet or the way your muscles work in synergy on the elliptical? The gym might not be the first place you think of to get connected and stop and smell the flowers (or dirty gym socks), but getting in the habit of really feeling your body can improve your workouts ten fold. Here are some alternative ideas to help you start tuning in to your body:
1.) Yoga: I’ve mentioned yoga a few times in past posts, but this is an easy and fairly accessible way to start connecting to your body. Find a class in your area, a DVD, or even free online videos to start becoming more mindful of your physical and emotional state.
2.) Laban Movement Analysis/Bartenieff Fundamentals: These classes might be a bit harder to find, but are usually available in college towns (they are typical in many college level dance/theater programs) or through some local dance studios. They break down human movement into concepts, principles, and exercises to facilitate proper function and awareness. You can learn more about Laban Movement Analysis here and Bartenieff Fundamentals here.
3.) Alexander Technique: Alexander Technique is becoming more widely available in dance and fitness facilities or you could seek out a private teacher in your area. Alexander Technique focuses on re-learning proper movement patterns and letting go of bad habits in our everyday activities. Its primary function is to relieve unnecessary tension to allow an individual to move with more freedom and ease. You can learn more about it here.
4.) Nia: Part martial arts, part dance, Nia is a movement class that focuses on healing and improving the body and spirit through fitness. It has become more popular in recent years at local health clubs but is also available in dance and fitness studios. You can learn more about it here.
5.) Egoscue: Egoscue was created as a way to relieve pain through proper body alignment. With only 24 clinics in the US it may be a bit harder to find but you can search their website for practitioners in your area. You can learn more about it here.
6.) Pilates: With a huge growth in popularity in recent years, Pilates has become a household name. Though class levels and styles vary, Pilates focuses on strengthening the body through improved core strength. It is widely available at gyms, studios, through private instruction, and on DVD and internet websites.
Find a technique that works for you and try it at least once a week. If nothing here speaks to you, take a solo walk sans your Ipod or other distractions. Be proactive in checking in with your body from time to time and you may save yourself pain, time, and money later on. So go ahead, inhabit your body!