I have been reflecting lately, as I continue my own studies and experiential exploration of mind-body practice, on the old adage “move it or lose it…”
In neuroscience there is the relatively new (20 years or so) concept of neuroplasticity.
This is defined as how the brain changes both function and structure in response to experience.
In terms of practice, it is very pertinent that mindful states heighten neuroplastic change in the brain, as does the feel-good reward chemistry activated by physical activity, meditation etc..
The sweet spot for neuroplastic change combines:
* Familiar beneficial routines: yoga sequences, dance warm ups, meditation techniques, familiar locations, communities, and rituals, with
* Novel experiences: new physical and mental challenges and discoveries, all held in
* The mindful, warm-hearted sense of exploration and self-care
* An open-ness to acknowledging and taking in what feels good, while cultivating resilience and compassion in the face of our difficulties.
So, mix it up, friends!
Come to yoga, come to Dance Tribe, meditate at your desk for 2 to 5 minutes before you reply to THAT email, roll around on the floor at home before dinner for 15 minutes, experimenting with new movement patterns that use familiar shapes or sequences as a platform for improvisation.
Notice the blind spots you usually avoid and get interested in how you can reclaim resilient, courageous, compassionate engagement of how you work with that shoulder, low back, sense of gratitude or forgiveness, open-ness to new experience and healthy risk taking etc…
My Evolving Sequence: Stability & Variety in Movement
If you take my classes regularly, you may have noticed that my yoga sequence has evolved over the last few years to include a couple significant new innovations:
This has included refining certain aspects of the core work I learned from Ana Forrest many years ago, when she was pioneering the inclusion of abdominal exercise in yoga.
Because human knowledge keeps evolving, in the years since, the “draw your navel toward your belly” instruction has been replaced (based on newer research) with more of a focus on “abdominal bracing” or firming up your core as if expanding a cylinder from the center of your abdomen.
I have also been really exploring how to focus on shoulder stability, because this is our most mobile, versatile, and therefore vulnerable joint —and the fast swooping caturanga that has characterized the popular flow sequence since the last 90’s has a massive blind spot in terms of bearing all your weight rapidly down to the floor in that fancy-looking (but bad for your rotator cuff) transition!
In addition to emphasizing more of a joint stability awareness (hips, low back and shoulders) you may have noticed me seeking to inspire an attitude of inquiry around movement…
The transitions in and out of postures, rotating certain joints as part of the more static posture, and reminding your brain and neuromuscular system that there are ranges of motion, and responsive articulations that have to be used in order not to be lost!
Routine is good —but if we always do the same things in exactly the same ways, we run the risk of conditioning a very limited sense of embodiment, and also of going into auto-pilot mode and missing the alive, intelligent, curious exploration that always unfolds only in the present moment.
For me, yoga, dance, martial arts, fitness, and any kind of mindful practice, are all part of one continuum that invites adaptive health in response to experience and placing demands on our system.
I am excited to keep sharing this process with you!
See you soon,