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5 Lessons Learned From Studying My Own Movement

Last month I attended a Move Your DNA weekend workshop at Boomerang Pilates in Toronto hosted by a Nutritious Movement Certified RES. If you aren't familiar, this workshop is for anyone who has read Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman, MS to refine the exercises covered in the book.

The book uses biomechanics as a lens to explore how our environment has shaped our movement and vice versa, encouraging the reader to take ownership of their health. We spent the weekend exploring the use of corrective exercise and body alignment work to move toward more natural movement. 

For me, this weekend was a small part of a 2 year long process to become a certified RES, which involves nearly 350 hours of movement training. The program heavily emphasizes understanding of your own movement in order to help others improve theirs... which makes a lot of sense. 

My background is in physical therapy, meaning I spent the better part of the last 10 years extensively studying the human body, disease, and movement. Initially even I wasn't sure, despite being a movement provider, how I would feel about spending two intensive days exclusively focused on my body alignment in an effort to correct years of bad movement patterns.

It is safe to say it exceeded my expectations and then some.

Body alignment work is for anyone looking to take responsibility for their health. This approach does not involve a mindless workout for the sake of “exercise”. It demands attention and mindfulness as you explore movement patterns and question what about your world has shaped them. We took a deep look at how our environment (furniture, shoes, electronic devices, etc.) influences movement and the endless number of ways we can incorporate natural movement into our day. There are many layers to improving movement, allowing you to go as superficial or deep as you please.

The main lessons I took away from this workshop:

  1. Changing your function in a meaningful way comes from meaningful practice consistently over time.

A pervasive belief in our society is that an hour of exercise negates any other bad habits we might have throughout the day. And that we can mindlessly perform exercise while watching television or reading while expecting all the benefits.

While I would argue that any form of movement is better than none, there is much more to be gained with the mindful practice of exercise. Undoing the effects of years of bad movement habits requires an incredible amount of focus and attention with deliberate practice.

I realized this weekend the more deliberate the practice, the greater the change you can expect. Practicing in a mindful way also fosters a mind-body connection. This process is slow and tedious initially, but gives a greater benefit for the work put in.

2. Letting go of perfectionism is an essential part of the learning process.

Perfectionism holds many of us back from getting what we really want out of life. Anything you do perfectly the first try is not worth practicing, but we tend to enjoy activities we're good at so this is exactly what we do.

This is exactly why we call this type of work a “movement practice”. We're far from perfect in our initial attempt at trying anything new. The more we fear not being perfect, the more we restrict ourselves from learning.

In any area of life, to make progress, we make mistakes and then reflect on them to learn. Movement is no exception. Even if we know we have far from perfect form during a squat, we have to continue to practice to learn how to correct it.

The more you try and fail, the more you give yourself an opportunity to learn. Much to my surprise, there were some exercises I thought I had been performing well and it turns out this was not the case when I was given feedback by classmates! It wasn't easy to realize I hadn't been doing something in the way I thought I was, but this was valuable information to have moving forward. 

3. Never stop questioning.

This weekend we learned to approach movement like a student. A major emphasis of this workshop is the study of what happens to your body alignment if you adjust is layers.

For example, if you change the angle of your foot when you squat, how does it impact your hip? If your pelvis tucks, what happens to your rib positioning? The best way to learn is to continuously observe and ask yourself questions. Then make adjustments accordingly.

4. Step out of your comfort zone as often as possible.

Being an introvert, I would happily hide behind a computer or a book for all of my learning. I tend to avoid learning in group settings.

This course emphasized learning with a group as well as self-feedback through the use of a mirror. What I realized was eye-opening. The value of the input was 10 times what I paid for.

It pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me realize the value of working with different people. I learned more in a 5 minute discussion than I would have learned through hours of research with the same question online. In the future, I will seek out more of this type of interaction even though it is not where I am most comfortable. This weekend was a powerful reminder that meaningful growth happens outside of our comfort zone. 

5. You can make your movement as easy or complicated as you want it to be.

There are many layers to corrective exercises. For example, the pelvis moves in 3 different directions. It can tilt forward and backward (pelvic tilt), it can rotate to one side or the other (pelvic rotation), or one side of the pelvis can be higher relative to the other (pelvic listing). You can focus on just one, or on all 3 of these movements. It's up to you, meaning you take from this exercise what you want to.

Again, practicing in this way takes time and attention. It can be tedious, but the benefits are worth much more than the time invested.

No matter what you consider your overall health and fitness level, I highly recommend starting some sort of movement practice. Anyone can benefit from CrossFit athletes to those who have never set foot inside of a gym. Approach your movement as a learning experience and you will never go wrong.


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