Mindful Movement

Have you ever noticed how most animals, particularly animals in the wild, have seemingly perfect figures? As in, they look sleek and muscular and uniform. I’ve often wondered why human beings have such a huge variation of strange physical differences or “imperfections.” I won’t list any because I don’t want anyone to feel self-conscious about their bodies in any way, but you may be able to think of a few examples on your own. I certainly have personal grievances with my own body that come to mind and led me down this train of thought to begin with.

This could be solely because we have more diversity in our genetics than different animal species. But I don’t think it is solely genetic. I’ve seen people with very similar genetic makeup have vastly different appearances. I’ve wondered how much the way we hold ourselves in our daily lives comes into play. Our posture, for example. Is that determined by our genes? Or is it a largely unconscious result of a multitude of factors like our confidence or merely years of bad habit? Is the internal or external rotation of our femurs in relation to our hips inherited or perhaps created as we grow due to the way we walk? Does my lower tummy have that stubborn pooch because of genetics or has my mental avoidance of that part of my body contributed by allowing years and years of disengagement with those muscles? Does my pelvis naturally tilt forward, or has it been allowed to slip into that position because those stabilizing core muscles have been ignored?

How much could we change about our appearance by simply staying mindful of the way we move throughout the day? Even more importantly, how much degenerative pain could we avoid in old age by adding a loving awareness to each movement? Strengthening my mental connection to my core all day, rather than just during exercise, may not solve my insecurity, but it could definitely prevent the low-back pain I occasionally experience.

What’s the main difference between humans and other animals? They live in the moment, they remain present, while we humans are always miles away, lost in our own heads. Maybe other animals are just more connected to their physical bodies than we are.

Most of my waking hours are spent flailing my body about, mechanically falling into deeply ingrained patterns of movement I’ve developed from years of mindless repetition. Locking my knees, slouching at my desk, mentally disengaging from my midsection, rounding my shoulders forward as I grip the steering wheel, tight lips, tense face. I hold myself so much differently, so much more intentionally, while I’m working out or doing my yoga practice. I began to wonder what a huge difference it might make if I kept that mindful body awareness during the rest of my day. After a few years of that, I can’t imagine not looking different. And I’m nearly certain you’d feel different.

We all have so many bad physical habits that we remain mostly unaware of which manifest due to stress or other mental states. Not only can my anxiety cause me to tense my shoulders, face, and neck, but relaxing and releasing those same areas has the ability to alleviate the anxiety. The hard part is being able to step out of my head long enough to remember this in the moment. Perhaps being more mindful of my body will even reduce the amount of anxiety I experience day to day.

I think it is a fascinating theory worth trying out. It is definitely challenging to keep bringing your mind back to what each little part of the body is doing. But even if it doesn’t ultimately change outward appearance, it is still a valuable mindfulness exercise in its own right and would undoubtedly make a difference mentally.

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