Join me and dancer Linda Ugelow for a weekend of movement, reflection, music and personal transformation at Rowe Camp in the Berkshires April 17-19 for Change Your Movement, Change Your Life!
I’ve been thinking about movement . . . and how, in our modern world, we consider it as something added to our lives – Exercise. Play. Sports. Yoga.
But it’s something we are designed to do all the time. It’s not just optional. It’s absolutely necessary for us to do it if our bodies and minds are going to function as they were designed to function.
For example, look at our lymph nodes. They get inflamed. They get lumps. They don’t drain and we retain toxins that cause us discomfort and disease. Why? In the original plan of the human body, the lymphatic system didn’t need any kind of special drainage. It would just drain as a result of our being active twelve hours a day.
Multiply that by every system in our body, and we start to get the picture. It’s mind-boggling.
At a conference last summer (of The Educational Kinesiology Foundation) I heard scientist and biomechanist Katy Bowman speak. The talk was entitled “Thinking Outside of the Chair.” It was an eye-opener . . . she spoke about how we used to not sit in chairs at all, because our bodies are designed to squat. But at least the first chairs were “uncomfortable,” straight hard seats that forced us to sit up straight, and we’d spend less time in them. But as the chairs became more comfortable, we sat in them more and more . . . literally shaping our backs into curves . . . starting now with the bucket shapes of baby seats. We are changing the construction of our spines and it is not an improvement from the standpoint of health.
It has made me realize how much we associate maturity, intelligence, competence, and so on, with the ability to sit still in a chair and do academic work for long periods of time.
It’s something to think about. On the radio yesterday, I heard an excerpt of a Ted Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie entitled “What Are the Dangers of a Single Story?” She talks about growing up middle class in Kenya, and reading only children’s books by English authors. So when she began to write her own stories, her characters were blond and blue-eyed, and drank ginger beer, and talked about the weather. She thought, because she had only read books about these people, that these were the only books that it was possible to write. That is what she calls the “single story” – the story that replaces the reality of life, in all of its possibilities, the single story that closes our minds to an alternate truth.
I think the chair is “a single story.” Our bodies are made to run, climb, twist, squat – do a thousand different coordinations in every direction – because that is the way our minds and our hearts grow, that is the way we were designed to survive and thrive. It would be interesting to trace the evolution of the idea of intelligence as being linked to the ability to sit still and perform tasks linked to language and numbers . . . but that is for a future post!
Right now, I’m just kind of in shock about my own assumptions about “the single story”– even though I am a developmental movement specialist. I still sit for long hours at the computer. (Somewhere in the writing of this post, I got off my ergonomically designed saddle chair, upturned a plastic basket on the desk, and began to write standing up. I’m also changing my weight from foot to foot, as in a Balkan dance move (or the Leg Cross Flexion-Extension Reflex). I actually do feel better – more alert, less driven).
The single story most of us have been told – and have told our kids - is that exercise is something we add to our lives so that we can be healthy. But Katy Bowman suggests that the opposite is actually true. Movement is what we are. And it’s what we are designed to do – constantly – tobe who we are.
Yet almost nothing in our society is designed to encourage freedom of movement. In most schools, recess is being eliminated, the 3 R’s are trickling down to the toddlers, and technology is replacing the hands on, feet on the ground play imaginative that children used to do. In many families, where children spend a large part of their lives driving in cars and playing with devices, and just running around the neighborhood with the other kids is not in the schedule – or even safe.
I don’t know where to go with this; I’m still in that Zen state of non-verbal paradigm shift. But maybe you can go there with me, and we can begin to rewrite – I mean, re-move – our assumptions.
Can’t wait for the ride!