Earlier this year I was interviewed on En*theos by one of the innovators of the functional fitness movement, Frank Forencich. In his most recent book, Beautiful Practice, he writes,
We are stuck in the middle of a mismatch. Our ancient bodies, wired by evolution for survival in a wild, natural habitat, are struggling to live in radically different modern world. Challenges are everywhere: overwork, sedentary living, toxic foods, social chaos and habitat destruction surround us. This is what I call “The Primate’s Predicament.”
And now we’re suffering. Our bodies are suffering with lifestyle diseases, our minds are stressed, our spirits are confused. And our primitive, habitual responses just aren’t working.What we need is a practice, not just to alleviate our suffering, but to live the beautiful adventure we call life.
Movement is probably the most important element in the adventure of Life. Human beings learn through movement; it is in our nature as self-learners of the highest order. We have learned to adapt over time because of the ability of our cortex to do one thing: LEARN. The question is, what is important to learn and adapt to and what is potentially harmful? How many people realize that learning how to relax and recover is a critically important aspect of good health. Stress resilience is a skill.
Humans adapt or die
I consider Somatic Exercises a critical part of one’s daily practice. Our birthright as human beings is to move easily and effortlessly, yet it takes practice and skill. Learning to prepare yourself to move with intention and voluntary control can spell the difference between “successful” aging and the traditional idea of aging: inevitable decrepitude, pain, a cane and a slow demise.
What we are missing is the understanding that every part of this thing we call a body is interconnected. We are not “a knee,” “a hip,” “my tight psoas,” or “that painful IT band.” We are system that moves in patterns, as an integrated whole. If one part of the system is out of balance, it causes an imbalance throughout the entire system. This system we call our “body” is efficient in the best of times, and completely out of control in the worst of times when, as we adapt to stress, we forget what it feels like to move and sense as we did when we were children. Somatic Exercises recreate the basic movements of bending, reaching, twisting, side bending and extending – the non-negotiable basics of all movement that came so easily to all of us long ago. They remind our brain who is in control!
Tomorrow in Astoria, NY I will lead a Somatic Exercise Coach Training for a group of fitness trainers at the Matrix Fitness Center. It will be the first such training of personal fitness trainers whose goal it is to learn more about how Somatic awareness, the first step to any movement practice, can positively shift the course of one’s training regime, whether the goal is to lift weights, play tennis, do Yoga, dance, train for a marathon or simply walk without pain.
A somatic perspective is long overdue in the fitness arena. Many people don’t feel as if they’ve gotten anything out of their workout if they aren’t hurting; somehow, they say, they “just don’t feel anything.” The belief in “no pain, no gain” is the quick road to misery and a short-lived athletic career. There is a more intelligent way to approach movement and one that the trainers tomorrow will begin to experience:
Less is more and slow is fast when it comes to learning how to move well.