By Heather Glidden
I need to start this blog post with a shout-out to the wonderful instructors at my studio who have helped to inspire it. In this post, I'd like to explore the more meditative side of the movement that I teach, mixed with some elements of coaching.
A mounting body of research shows us that our beliefs and thought patterns can directly influence how we experience our bodies. Noticing the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies can allow us to change that experience.
Take a moment and scan your body. Move around a little bit. What do you notice? What sensations are you experiencing? Do you notice pain, creakiness, discomfort? Or do you notice pleasure, joy, ease? Noticing the sensations in your body, and then noticing how you label them is the first step in changing how you experience your body.
Now try something a little different. Describe for yourself how you want your body to feel. What qualities do you want it to have? Do you want it to feel expansive, happy, light, grounded? One of the instructors at my studio said she wanted to have a flirty spine. Great! You can write your own story — think about what story you want to tell.
Now, use those qualities like a question as you move. Move your spine in every different direction, swing your arms, bounce on your feet, turn your head, dance — move every which way. As you do, imagine using your breath to move those qualities throughout your whole body. Ask your body how it needs to move in order to express those qualities.
Sometimes it's hard to hear the answer to that question while your awareness is centered in your head, so imagine sliding down your spinal column into your body. Instead of thinking from your brain, think from your elbow, your pelvis, your little toe. Now ask the question again — how can I allow my desired qualities to be expressed more fully in this body part? Notice if you get an answer or if you start to find a way that feels better to move. Notice if you are holding tension that you don't need and if you can begin to let it go.
Trust your body. Trust your own ability to interpret the messages that your body is giving you. So much of this process is about trust. The more you build that trust, the more power you have to change your stories about what is going on in your body. "I have a bad back" might become "My back works very hard and needs some extra love" or "My back sits at a desk all day and wants to dance." I can't tell you what your story is because everyone has their own. And only you have the power to change it.
There are many studies on the topic of how our thoughts affect our bodies. For a few examples, check out the following links.
The study discussed in this article suggests that it may be possible to delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by "building a better brain through your life experiences."
"Pain is not just a message from injured tissues that must be accepted at face value, but a complex experience that is thoroughly tuned by your brain." This is the central thesis of this longer exploration of the subject.
"People who believe that their physical activities will improve their health and fitness reap greater results from exercise than those who don’t believe that what they are doing is exercise," according to the study quoted in this article.
"Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? Here the science says yes."
Heather Glidden is the co-owner of Gyrotonic Tree Town & Pilates Loft Studio, located on East Washington Street in downtown Ann Arbor. Heather is also a Life Coach and Massage Therapist and incorporates elements of both to help clients reach their goals and improve their overall wellness.