Bodily Awareness and Control
As a moving machine, the human body is one of nature’s incredible marvels. With it, we can speak, walk, and perform an incredible array of movements. At our slightest wish we can carry out any task, the body acting as a machine that seamlessly carries out our intentions. If the body functions inefficiently, as happens increasingly with age, we exercise, strengthen, or treat parts of the body in the hope that it can continue to operate efficiently in response to our wishes.
The problem with such approaches, however, is that the body does not work in pieces but as a coordinated whole, and the working of the parts depends upon this whole. Look, for instance, at how a typical two-year-old sits and stands and it is immediately evident that, in whatever the child does, the body works perfectly as a coordinated whole. To perform a specific movement such as raising an arm, the child must contract individual muscles and move at particular joints, but these movements take place in the context of this larger whole, which serves as the crucial background for whatever specific actions are taking place.
Understanding this larger system is essential to a system of awareness that makes it possible to identify in a positive way how the body works and to stop interfering with it. When this system works well, muscles do not strain but are naturally healthy and toned; joints have room and are supported so that they can work with maximum ease; breathing is full and unimpeded; vitality is heightened by improved muscle tone; and circulation is maximized by a lack of excessive contraction in muscles. In short, the key to improved movement and health is not the practice of this or that method but an understanding of how the body is designed to function naturally--that is, with a minimum of strain and effortless grace based on our body’s natural design.
Being kinesthetically aware based on an understanding of this system represents a critical foundation for a complete model of awareness. We are all familiar with the kinesthetic sense, the so-called 6th sense that enables us to be aware of bodily position, effort, and movement. Although partially conscious, the kinesthetic sense operates at a mostly unconscious level to help adjust and coordinate our actions. Coordinating the body as a whole makes this sense conscious, so that it becomes available to us as part of being conscious and present in all our activities. When we understand how the body works and bring about a more coordinated working of the body, this activates an emergent, conscious awareness of the body that supports conscious and mindful awareness in action. This includes the conscious management of bodily systems, sitting and standing balance, the use of the arms, breathing and speech. The movement system is the foundation for our human state of awareness. When it is working well, we can act more efficiently, sense what we are doing and, with this increased sensibility, maintain this awareness in action.
In this section, we look at the human movement system and how it is designed to work naturally based on muscle length; the central role of the relationship of the head to the trunk in organizing the musculoskeletal system; how the bones and connective tissue form an architectural structure; muscle tone and the automatic working of the musculoskeletal system. We will also look at how we interfere with the PNR system, and how to use our awareness to restore and activate the system when it has been interfered with.
Anatomy in Action
The Body in Motion