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  • Akosua Knowles

4 ideas for 3D humans

My philosophies of health and movement are continually evolving. Over the past year or so, I've had some exciting revelations thanks to teachings from a few fine folks, credited below. I've had so many ideas for things I'd like to share with you that I've felt overwhelmed with where to start. The following four lil nuggets have brought me happiness, I hope they can do the same for you!

1. Become aware of your breathing habits

I used to think of great breathing as diaphragmatic breathing. I still think diaphragmatic breathing is a FABULOUS thing to practice, however I've recently learned that the most important change you can make to your relationship with breathing is simply to become aware of it. Tune into your breath, without judgement, as often as you can. When you inhale, where in your body do you feel a sense of expansion? When you exhale, what areas can you feel soften? How does one breath differ from the last? Do you relish that sweet spot between exhalation and inhalation? What happens to your breath when you reach to put on your socks in the morning? And when you're parallel parking? Shaving? In order to change habits, we first need to become aware of them. An approach that's worked for me is to close my eyes and "watch" my breath, the way I might watch ocean waves lap at the beach.

2. Look ALL around you

Our eyes can see near and far. And up and down and left and right and all the directions in between. Our amazing eyes are capable of discovering both the distant shapes on a sea's horizon and the intricacies of a snowflake. Today, because our lifestyle is largely indoors, our eyes mostly look at within-room-length and often within-arms-length distances. Consider how much of your day is spent looking at a phone, a computer, a kitchen counter, a person across the table, a book, a pottery wheel, etc. When we drive, we may be looking at further distances (great) but generally we are just looking in one direction- straight in front of us. Let's let our eyes live up to their potential!

The simplest way to do this is to go outside! When we travel on foot, we are more likely to look AROUND us. Treat yourself to distant sights- smoke floating out of a chimney, birds in far away trees. Look behind you, beside you, above you. Have a window at home/ school/ work? Give your eyes a rest from your arms-reach task and look out it. Exploring the potential of your gaze feels gooood. If your eyes are simply too tired, try palming. Palming is covering your eyes with the palms of your hands, and picturing total darkness. Wait until your tensions melt. One last note about eyes- our eyes are reflexively connected to the muscles at the base of our skull. Neck tension? Give those eyes some love.

3. Get reacquainted with the ground

Ever heard about the importance of "tummy time" for babies? It's recommended that babies spend time belly-side-down every day in order to become great movers. How does this work? When we're on our bellies, we learn how to lift our head against gravity in order to see the world around us. This develops coordination of our back, shoulder, and hip musculature- which enables us to reach the next movement milestones of rolling over, creeping, sitting up, crawling, walking, and squatting. Mastering movement on the ground is part of creating a solid foundation for a resilient body. In our modern adult lifestyle, most of us don't hang around on the ground. We sit on couches, eat at tables, sleep on beds elevated way up off the floor. Rarely are we required to pick ourselves up off the ground. So we forget. And when we do need to, it feels strenuous, further encouraging us to avoid it. But being able to move around on the ground in all directions with grace is ESSENTIAL for whole body strength and resiliency.

Elderly people are often especially afraid of falling, and for good reason- we've forgotten how to fall, and we've forgotten how to get up. Imagine you've fallen and twisted your ankle. Can you get up with only three limbs? Can you do it from lying on your back? Can you do it from lying on your stomach? Give it a try.

If you don't feel it's realistic for you to dedicate time every day to rolling around on your floor, here are a few ideas to incorporate ground movement into your life:

  • eat a meal or snack sitting at your coffee table, sitting on the floor

  • play with your kids/dog/ cat down on their level

  • do (even some of) your homework/ craft/ emails on the carpet

  • build a fire

  • garden

  • fold your laundry on the floor

  • this might sound crazy, but... have less furniture!

Moral of the story- move on the ground in as many directions as you can dream up. Be a 3D human! It's fun.

4. Free your feet!

As bipedal animals, our two feet are fully equipped to propel us safely in any direction our heart desires. The feet and ankles have incredible capacity for sensation. Nerves of our feet continually relay information about position, pressure, texture, and temperature so we can respond appropriately to the ground underneath us. The arches of our feet act like springs- softening and stiffening as we move in order to absorb and transmit force for efficient gait. Our feet work best when our toes are able to spread, lift, reach, grip, and push.

Feet, like any living thing, are shaped by their environment- i.e. the footwear and terrain we subject them to. Tight toe boxes, raised/ high heels, stiff soles, ultra-cushioned footbeds, orthotics worn forever, tight socks, socks on babies all day long in the summertime, endlessly flat and hard living surfaces... these things put a dimmer switch on the potential of the foot! Does this not put a dimmer switch on the potential for whole body movement? Free your feet. Treat them to textures, put them in shoes that allow them to behave like feet, practice controlling the movement of your toes, practice balancing on a variety of surfaces in bare feet. Your feet will thank you. Which is really you thanking you of course. Self-love.

This post was inspired by:

  • The fantastic book, "Movement Matters" by Katy Bowman

  • My Feldenkrais instructor, Gisele St. Hilaire

  • The folks over at Original Strength for their simple, kind-hearted "movement snax" videos

  • The folks at The Foot Collective The Foot Collective and Gait Happens

  • Daryl Hochman, one of my favourite instructors at the Canadian College of Osteopathy

  • My clients, for giving me a reason to delve deeply

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