We just kicked off the first Liberated Body 30-Day Challenge today- which is like a "cleanse" that is more about your movement nutrition than your dietary nutrition- with a fantastic group from all over the world (don't worry, there will be more in the future!), and we're starting our first week by focusing on letting go of efforting in our bodies. Why? Because feeling good in our bodies is not about effort! It's about connecting with our innate support- the glorious architecture of you from the inside out, from the cellular level on up. We are all born with support built right in.
Yet more often than not, in my practice my clients always want to know if I hold the magic answer to the age-old question, "How can I effort in my body the right way." Only the question is never phrased that way. It usually sounds like some variety of these, "What should I do with my shoulders?", "What should I do during the day to fix my lousy posture?", "How should I hold my neck?" You know the questions, because if you're like me you've asked them of your body and yourself plenty of times.
There's nothing wrong with these questions. All of the people who ask them are asking because they are suffering in some way- whether it's from their perception of their posture as failing, or chronic pain, or movement restrictions- it all boils down to physical suffering.
So to seek answers isn't problematic (it's downright heroic when you think about how easy it is to hide from our "stuff"), it's the presumption behind the questions that is problematic. The presumption is: "I have no support, how do I get some?" When a more useful, and more anatomically correct (heh heh) question would be, "I have lost my ability to feel supported in my body, how do I find my way back to my natural effortless state?"
First, a word on the word effortless: I kind of hate it. It's been corrupted by people trying to sell us things like "effortless hair" and "effortless weight loss" and "effortless investing" and they use that word because they want to associate it with people thinking that effortless = checking out, not having to work for anything, and generally drooling on the couch while magic happens.
So let's clarify: effortless = strain-free connection with innate support.
And oftentimes to find it we have to go on a journey- in this case one that is about awareness of our own physical selves. We have to get inquisitive, dial in, explore, tinker, and perhaps most of all know that we are looking for something that has been obscured, rather than trying to build something from scratch. We have to trust-fall into ourselves rather than bullying ourselves.
Much of this can be explained by tensegrity which, to be fair, is something that it took me a decade to start getting a handle on. (But then again I can be a slow learner.) Whether it instantly makes sense to you or not, it's a beautiful framework for understanding what I'm talking about and it also happens to be anatomically and physiologically true! How handy!
I wrote in Why Fascia Matters (which P.S. is free), "In tensegrity- in this case in regards to the human body- structures are stable and functional not because of the strength of individual pieces, but because of the way the entire structure balances and distributes mechanical stresses. Tension is continuously transmitted through the whole structure simultaneously. Which means that an increase in tension to one piece of the structure will result in an increase in tension to other parts of the structure- even parts that are seemingly “far” away."
I love that our bodies are built this way because it's like this delicious reminder that balance is strength. Not strain, not effort, not achieving, not strife; balance. Which, not to get too woo-woo on you, can extend to our worldviews as well. Are we dragging ourselves by our fingernails to our goals or are we getting into flow? Can we allow ourselves to believe that we have what we need, and we just need to find our way to inner resources that already exist? Sorry I just can't help digressing in that direction! I think it's so interesting.
Back to tensegrity: whenever the Olympics are on I have this fun game I play with friends or family who I'm watching it with: I like to pick who is going to win the event at the beginning, before they have begun moving, based on how balanced their structure is. This is especially easy with runners, swimmers, and power lifters. Not always, but more often than not, the people who triumph are the people who are the most balanced, because they have this whole structure to draw on for strength, speed, and agility, rather than blowing out one region of their body. Go take a look at high level power lifters on YouTube and you can see that these people are tensegrity in motion- every part is doing its right job to lift that weight. If not, ouch. It doesn't go particularly well.
And so it goes for us, in our regular non-Olympic competitor lives, if we can't rely on the whole by finding our way back to our inherent balance... ouch.
Of course this a dance we're engaged in forever. I think we assume that we have two options: perfectly balanced, or a mess. Really we're always tinkering, so ideally we make that a compassionate dance. Finding balance can be a delightful exploration or self-flagellation but I think it's clear which one I'm voting for.
photo by Erik Meldrum