I’ve enjoyed the last couple of months reengaging with physiotherapist and teacher Joanne Elphinston in her ART of movement online course. It has really added to my understanding of how to change painful patterns and teach more efficient ones.
One of the cool things I’ve discovered through her work is our body needs a certain amount of tension in fascia and the tissues for us to stay upright. Otherwise, we might as well all be jellyfish. However, if we contract all our muscles, we stiffen up and are unable to move - this is known as the ‘suit of armour’ strategy. Our bodies go from being able to produce finely calibrated movements to only knowing where they are when there is a lot of tension in the muscles.
Our bodies are constantly sensing where we are in space, but injury, stress and hypermobility can interfere with this feedback mechanism. It is as if we become deaf to quiet sounds and can only hear loud noises. What do you do when you can’t hear? Turn the volume up even more!
Helping to restore our body’s proprioception is a clever way to improve our balance and get more out of any exercise that we do.
There are many methods to do this: An easy one that I’ve done in martial arts (without realising its significance) is body slapping or tapping.
First, let's check out your balance on one leg. Now, start with rubbing your palms together quickly, until there is some heat. Then slap or tap both arms, on the outside and on the inside. You want loud, rhythmic noises. Do the same over your chest and belly, over the underwear line in the groin, any part of the back you can reach and finish patting or slapping down the front and back of your legs. At the end, stamp your feet a couple of times.
Now for the shakes. Start with your foot, then the knee, and add the hip. Shake it forward and back, and also side to side. Repeat on the other side and follow the same idea for the wrists, elbows and shoulders. Let's look at your balance again. Has anything changed or does anything else feel different in your body? Let me know!