Baby Steps Into Liberation
Six months!! My baby was crawling at six months!
Hmm, mine was walking by then. (*side eye)
That’s great … my baby was dancing by six months. Profession-al-al-ly. (*grin while slow-sipping an iced latte)
It starts then, right!? This idea that movement is a competition. That if it doesn’t look like ____ then it must be wrong, or at the very least not as good as. This baby is better then that baby because it crab-shuffled itself across the linoleum just a week sooner than that baby over there. Or maybe there’s something wrong with your baby? I mean, it’s like a whole year into this life shit and s/he can’t wobble their way to you!? Yup, it's a strong probable that it's a broken baby.
Then we get into P.E.. (Mmm Hmmm) Basically this is where you’re officially educated that if you aren’t genetically good at pitching a ball, running as fast as an Olympian, or doing a ridiculous amount of sit-ups (or some shitty version of) then you Sir, are NOT athletic. (A case in itself for more natural movement in education, but I digress.) Those messages get imprinted. I’m not good at sports. I’m not good at endurance stuff. I’m not the strongest. I’m broken! My body is just NOT good at stuff. I guess I’ll just have to find ways to avoid using it throughout my life.
As we get older the messages get stronger and permeate further. If I don’t consider myself athletic then I just don’t try new physical activities. Mostly because I’ve convinced myself I won’t be good at them (because not only did I crawl late, but I was also picked last during kickball). So, I don’t move a whole lot. Because when I do try to move a lot, I get hurt … probably because I’m not athletic. (Or maybe because you don’t practice moving!?)
So, I stop trying. I stop exploring. I settle into sedentary, and things just get grimier.
I think we can spot a pattern here. From a very young age we’re convinced that ____ is what it means to move well. That blank space can look a lot of different ways, yeah!? Maybe it’s being fast, or strong, a good dancer, or the top first round draft pick … but often it’s a named very real thing (either from our parents, an authority, the media, or ourself). That doesn’t mean it’s true, it’s just TRUE for us. We begin to create stories around the thing. If I can do the thing well then I’m GOOD. If I’m kinda’ crappy at the thing, then there’s a deficit in who I am as a person. Unfortunately our “things” are often very small and finite views of what is possible (in movement and really, in life, but we’ll stick to movement).
Now you have a new client walking in the door. Best guess is that they’re showing up because they have a physical concern - their this, that, or something else hurts. Or maybe they’re bored with their current workout (because it’s stopped working for them, or isn’t satiating something, or whatever). Regardless they’re there for a reason. You do an intake (after all you’re prudent … in the interim you’re often asking them to name all the things that are wrong with them … the proverbial when did you start to crawl and other deficits stuff … etc, and blahblahblah). Then you invite them to lie down on the Reformer. (Here’s where you stop them to point out exactly how to lie down, where their bones should be once they finally get to lie down, and then the muscles they’ll need to do the lying down. I mean like you really know your stuff, and they probably don’t! Right!?) The whole time this client is questioning how they even get into bed on their own (much less out of) if they can’t do this lying down on the machine thing without cues. (See … I knew I wasn’t athletic.) Finally they’re allowed to move. You get them into Footwork, and just to demonstrate how good of an instructor you are you point out that thing they’re doing wrong. (Gotcha!! Training is EXPENSIVE and time-consuming, and after all you did that mentorship with that one Elder’s Elder who sat at the same table as Joe once, so you want this client to know you KNOW something and you’re worth their money. New Person, I know what good movement is, it’s _____.)
Your stories, on top of their stories, on top of their parent’s stories, and beyond. Whoa!
Really there are two types of people - one that believes they aren’t athletic (whatever that means according to their personal ____), and the other that knows they’re athletic (because they’re good at the thing), and either way if they’re there to see you, the instructor, they want to improve. Period Paragraph. What they’re not in the studio to do is to have their suspicion of suckiness confirmed, or become less athletic (in mind and body). So, instructors, how are the choices you’re making daily impacting your clients?
I’m not insinuating we give up educating our clients, or challenging them, or even dismiss client intake forms. (Although, how different would that relationship begin if just as many questions were about what they enjoyed within their body, and movement, and experiences as it was about contraindications? Just a thought.) What I am suggesting is a subtle switch in intention. What if we began to shift the dialogue (the story) our clients are having with their body and movement? What if instead of pointing out, or inquiring about, all the things that are wrong with their movement we focused on all the things that felt right. It can literally be as simple as, “That movement looks like your hips really like that. What do you notice about that?” Just now a client came in with a shoulder/rib complaint. She felt like her left shoulder wasn’t attached to her body, and when she rotated to the left it felt “pinched” in her ribs. Sure I had 1,000 ideas of things to do and say, but I just suggested that she, “Rotate to the right and acknowledge a couple things that she felt she did RIGHT. Then do the same to the left. What felt good? Then do it again.” You know what happened … she noticed the absence of pain.
Maybe we’re too focused on fixing “broken” clients? Maybe it’s to flex our movement savvy? Maybe it’s to be sure that we’re safe-guarding our client's well-being or because we’re just unsure of what to do with all that. Or possibly maybe we’re trying to process our way through our own grimy story, or our own crappy _____. Whatever the case may be, teaching from a conscious negative assures that both you and your client are efforting backwards. What I mean is that if you’re constantly concerned about what NOT to do, then how are you ever gonna progress toward future goals?? Too often clients are being asked to focus their effort on not falling backward into brokenness at the detriment of progressing forward in a way that allows them to feel … well … athletic. Sure there's a time and place for most every cue, and a good strong "NO" has an impact when it's not an every session happenstance.
What might shift though if we began as a collective whole to put some effort in the going forwardness of movement? With an expectation of a movement liberation! Maybe that means you allow your client to (safely and proverbially) fall every now and again … get something wrong … explore a bit … figure out a way to get through their story and cumulative ____. You know, learn. What if the actual movement was the teacher, and your job was to help open and hold the space your client needs to be present and able to acknowledge their own potential? How different would a person leave a session after being saturated with self-awareness of all the things that went right versus all the things that could have been better? How would that feel?
My client knows how to make sure her pelvis is in the spot I instructed her it should be in.
My client knows where that spot is and can do The Hundred … from that spot.
My client knows when and where her pelvis feels good, AND doesn’t pee herself anymore. Like never ever.
by James Crader