Check out Part I here!
There are three main causes for the high drop-out rate in gym- membership, a challenge which gyms are constantly battling:
- Boredom with routines
- Discouragement – setting unattainable goals, like building a six-pack or losing 10 lbs in one month
Working in the MBS way addresses all three issues:
- Boredom with routines
When most people exercise in a typical gym setting, exploration and inquiry are not their focus. It is common to see people try to distract themselves from the repetitiveness of jogging on the treadmill or repeating routines, to try and make the minutes go by faster. Most fitness clubs feature rows of televisions and pump loud music over their speaker systems to help with this distraction.
Building continuous introspective, internal enquiry into each part of your routine is far more engaging than trying to make the minutes go faster through distracting yourself by listening to loud music while jogging on a treadmill or repeating pumps. This awareness will keep you intrigued – it is very interesting to find out about yourself and your own best way of doing your routine.
When you begin to focus your attention on how you’re moving, and, while doing so, what you are thinking, you find that the simplest movements encompass complex and interesting variation and options. This examination alone: comparing how your sides compare and looking for the better ways improves awareness, control and, thus, performance You find that you use your whole body as a unified system with a unified aim. In addition, you prevent injury, as you reduce the risk of ignoring strain and resolving physical conflict.
The MBS way of exercising adds new types of goals, which are focused on ‘how’ you do an action, rather than repetition for its own sake. By learning how to move and think more efficiently, learning to connect the entire system into the workout, learning how to become more flexible, to develop more stamina and channel one’s strength where you want it, you can improve more quickly. In each session, any person can learn something new about how they do the movement, how this connects to their thinking and self-image, and, thereby, how to improve. Therefore, each session is a new success, and discouragement vanishes.
The result of both 1 & 2 is that people become more aware of what they are doing and how they are moving, so that they are far less likely to cause themselves the harm of injury. In addition, you become far less likely to strain or overuse any single body part, one of the most common causes of injury.
A Marriage of Structure and Function
How we move is intrinsically linked to how we are structured. When we move effectively our physical structure and the way we envision it is directly reflected in our posture and movements. We think: ‘ I’m running. I should be moving my legs.’ But how are we connecting this to the rest of the body: shoulders, jaw, eyes? Our physiology is not a set of unrelated body parts. Movement in the legs naturally travels to the ends of each toe, through the hip-joints and pelvis to the spine, to the ribcage, and throughout the upper body, affecting everything, even the fingertips. When a runner makes an effort to stop this spreading of the movement, they have to use energy which is then un-available for the goal of running efficiently. Even more crucially, the places of friction between high activity and blocked movement accumulate enormous tension, causing long-term injury, as the entire system is put at cross-purposes. By observing ourselves from within, instead of prescribing a “correct” solution from outside, we eliminate excess strain or interference, arriving at a more flowing and physiologically appropriate movement.
By observing ourselves, often we learn most by noticing simple differences. We might ask ourselves: Do I step differently with the right and left foot? How much of each foot do I really feel contacts the ground? Is one stride longer than the other? Simply through the act of observation, we begin to release fixed patterns, and as we observe, it becomes possible to try out slight variations. Can we move with one side exactly like the other? If yes – how? If not – what stops us? Where is the tension or lack of flexibility? Where do I move with the most ease? How can I spread the ease throughout my whole system? There is a wealth of important information within, as each side can learn from the other. Even in running or strength machines, it might be something that seems quite unrelated, like the way we use our eyes. Solving this riddle brings on a cascade of information, options and positive change.
In the beginning, the differences in the way we move may seem minute. Yet, many athletes are surprised to find that a slight shift in attention can bring a dramatic change in their sense of ease and overall performance. Leora points to the degree to which energy is often wasted on unconscious holding patterns in our movements. Although they seem very small, they can actually store a lot of tension, which drains energy. By paying attention and learning to include the whole of yourself in everything that you do, you filter out interference, sharpen precision and put together exactly how you want to use yourself.
‘Exploring the many places involved in any action and looking for differences, provides a variety of ways to approach any activity. It enables us to give ourselves choices. Having one way only, even if it is supposed to be ‘the correct way’ is, by definition, rigid. It implies inability to go back and forth, moving between options, so that if there is a little shift, there is immediate tension and stress. Therefore, even if we decide to maintain the way we were running at first, having the choice creates fluidity, flexibility and efficiency throughout the system. ‘
While conscious observation is the basis for this method of learning, the process becomes an integrated second-nature. You learn to naturally notice patterns, connections and find out details and you can easily make adjustments to suit whatever situation and state in which you find yourself. Just like riding a bike or driving a car: when you first learn to drive you need to concentrate fully on the gears, gas pedals pressure, indication, using mirrors, etc, but in time you can do all those while singing, speaking to a friend or even having a snack. Likewise, by integrating MBS practice into your gym workout – your most focused time on yourself – you learn to be aware of how you use every part of yourself in action. For example, while jogging or lifting weights, what do you do with your eyes, your jaw, your breathing, the back of your neck? If you’re not aware of how you incorporate any part of your physiology or even your thinking, this can interfere with, or block the movement, by being too tight or simply unconnected. Someone who habitually clenches their jaw may initially realize it through intentional observation. By continuing to observe this pattern and connecting to the whole, (deleted extra comma) this habit transforms into awareness and mastery over these newly-discovered places and connections. The ‘problem area’ becomes the beacon that sheds light on important habitual-patterns which hold us back. This awareness connects us to physical and mental patterns and primes us for every action, so that we are able to use what we learn through the workout to benefit our daily life and deal with challenges outside of the gym as well.
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