Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2012 7:05 PM
What is the practice of yoga? It is many things for many people, but for me it has given the gift of mindfulness, of awareness. Of a greater sense of gratitude as well as consciously being in my body.
Forgetfulness, It is not just a mental issue; it can also show up in the body. No one is immune to the habitual state of forgetfulness, CRS (cant remember shit) as I often call it. We are told we can keep our minds alert thru mental exercises, so why not the body. As this forgetfulness or lack of awareness shows up in the physical body we lose awareness of sensation in certain muscles and or muscles groups in the body.
The central nervous system takes the information that it receives and coordinates function and responses in the physical body. But as we lack the awareness, this can show up as chronic muscular contraction. Over time these holding patterns, which I might add are learned responses, play a huge factor in the “aging body” and over time create structural issues that began due to improper functional use that over time became habitual.
But because it is a learned behavior, we can avoid it, unlearn it and reverse it, halting and possibly reversing the structural effects. It is as easy as unlearning what you have learned and remembering what you have forgotten. We need to first un learn the idea that these adverse affects of our holding patterns is due to aging, although the longer we maintaining these patterns, the greater the effect felt on the physical body. The tightness and stiffness and achy feelings upon arising from sleep or sitting are in large part due to the lack of awareness in the physical body.
I had a client share with me that she was totaling unaware of the habitual gripping of her shoulder muscles in response to the stress of the day until she felt this little tug on her earring as it was attracted to the magnet in her name tag. This learned behavior can just as easily be unlearned and reverse the damaging effects from chronic tension.
We are never surprised when after an intense workout, or maybe a long overdue workout, we emerge the next few days with varying degrees of pain. The same thing is true for our body when we maintain muscles in a chronic state of holding; the result is pain from a chronic overworked muscle that stays in a chronic state of contraction. But do to the lack of awareness of this learned behavior of muscle contraction, we are not only unaware of it, but often it is the last thing we think of as the cause for our pain. It is not going to show up on an x-ray and often times we are given a diagnosis of arthritis, or fibromyalgia or some other vague prognosis that feeds into the myth of the aging process that so many of us just accept.
I love to people watch, and I am often amazed at the lack of awareness in movement presented. I am equally amazed as I suffered from this total lack of awareness and still find myself falling back into these learned behavior’s of holding. It is so easy to do, and even easier to give your power away by conceding that it all goes down hill once you hit 40 or 50 or what ever your magical number is.
We slow down and as a result the body ages, gets stiffer, less supple and mobile. The best way to heal the body is to move the body. A body in motion is a happier healthier body.
Our perception of our physical body in space also gets distorted and throws off our sense of balance. We are no longer aware of the rounding of our upper back, or the constant forward hinging of the spine, only the dis ease in the body due to the unnatural, habitual and totally unconscious holding patterns. It therefore must be structural? Really? Common sense tells me that if you go in and address the issue from a structural point of view, ignoring the unconscious holding patterns that precipitated the dis ease you are setting the stage for further imbalances.
To say that a body is out of balance is really a bit incorrect. Our bodies must maintain balance to function, it may not be the most effective or healthy form of balance, but it is balanced with in the confines of the system it is working with. To restore a more functional form of balance is to relearn what one has forgotten. To be mindful and aware of the physical body, of holding patterns that most of us are not even aware of and relearn what we have forgotten, how to be at ease in our body.
Restoring awareness in our muscle groups requires learning how to not only control, but also to be able to feel them. Feel how they react to perception and stimuli outside of the body ie. Sounds, sights, smells, touch taste and the stresses of life, by feeling what is going on inside of the body. Every thing we do, every step we take, every thought, every experience we have is directly linked to our central nervous system.
Our sensory motor system is so key to life that if anything goes awry with it, the quality of our lives changes, drastically. As we lose sensory perception, body awareness, we lose the ability to efficiently control our bodies and our actions to the world around us. Our actions become limited and inefficient. Affected is no only the way we feel and see the world and our self’s, but how we react and function in the world is impacted and our lives can seriously deteriorate.
Beginning a practice of awareness, self awareness, is a huge step in unlearning the holding patterns that are holding you back, restoring vitality and ease to your physical body, mind and spirit. This is the practice of yoga, it all begins with you.