12 Practices of Optimal Healing: Movement

 At best, concentration transcends effort.

-George Leonard

When not well, our instinct is often to get in bed and lie still.  “Get some rest” is certainly a useful age old refrain.  For many, rest comes as a respite from the frenetic pace of the modern workplace.  Still others find that while lying in bed, our bodies are restless and fidgety, and our limbs do not lie still.  Perhaps movement is more essential for optimal healing than commonly perceived.

Essentially our bodies are in motion all the time.  The regular pulsing of our heartbeat, the rhythmical rise and fall of our chest drawing lifegiving air into our lungs, and the more subtle pumping of craniosacral pulsing of our cerebral spinal fluid, movement in vital to our most basic physiological functioning.  So when one lies in bed, or does the corpse pose in hatha yoga, or sits on a cushion in meditation, rather then this as doing nothing, in reality we are changing the emphasis of our motion from the more gross locomotor movements to a more subtle physiological core motion.  Indeed, this shift is healing, because it allows the body to focus on the more core motions bringing a coherence to the bodies rhythms.  Blood supply shifts from the extremities to the heart, lungs, and autonomic functions.

Gross muscular movements too can be essential for optimal healing. We use our larger muscle groups all the time both in the background, as postural muscles to sit or stand for long periods of time, or to get from here to there, or to cook, clean, and exercise.  Often the balance between movement and stillness, in muscular terms, is one of isotonic contraction versus isometric contraction-isotonic basically being the concentric type that we use to lift or to run while isometric muscle contraction occurs with little or no movement such as yoga stretching or just standing.  In both these types of muscular uses, it is fair to say you are active.  The only time your larger muscles are not doing anything is when you are lying down doing nothing, sleeping.  The rest of the day, most of your bodies muscles are engaged in some way or another.

Key to our focus on optimal healing, our movements throughout the day are busy, chaotic and lack a unified coherence. Talking on a cell phone while walking, eating while working, and sitting for way too long at work exemplify this bodily in-coordination.  The messages our body receives from the environment are interpreted through our physical body reactions, thus, when illness or trauma is present, our bodies may express achiness, pain, swelling, heat or cold to name a few.  While not often thought of, gross muscular movements do serve as a means for increasing circulation, in fact, walking is essential for pumping blood from the lower limbs back to the heart.  Exercise increases the depth and regularity of the breath.  Both, serve as a means for elimination–increased circulation send blood more quickly through the organs of elimination and the lungs release CO2 bringing in more O2.

Gentle exercise, such as walking, is a powerful tool for optimal healing.  No matter how good or bad you are feeling throughout your day, recognizing the value of movement that can serve as a cohering stimulus will certainly improve the healing response.  Simple walking, regularly, with you attention to your body, brings a gentle coherence to your entire body.  Movement techniques such as yoga, tai chi, QiGung, or expressive dance all offer movement forms that bring balance and harmony to the body.  With musculoskeletal pains or injuries, there certainly comes a time during healing that your body when used in carefully organized manner, stimulates the healing response. Sitting and focusing on your breathing acts to focus on movement. When upset, breathing and focusing inside is perhaps the most effective medicine in its immediacy and potency to calm and soothe.

Remember that your body holds a powerful tool for optimal healing.  We are all in movement throughout the day.  Bringing out attention to the way we can focus our movements to act as a healing catalyst is a simple yet effect means for increasing our ability to heal.  Regular practice and awareness building sets the stage for knowing that each of us have access at any time to the marvel of healing movement.

 

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