What is body awareness and why is it important?
Body awareness can mean many things depending on the context but in this instance it is being used to describe how we move through our daily lives. For example the way we pick something up off the ground, sit in a chair (see previous post here) or do squats at the gym. It can even be something as small as how we move our eyes or turn our head. Bringing awareness to simple movements or sensations can enhance these movements so that they are done with ease and efficiency as well as in way to prevent damage to our bodies!
So why is this important?
When we are less aware of how we move then we are more likely to get injured doing the repetitive motions that fill our day or the random movements like picking up something heavy without thinking about it or how we sit at our desk on a daily basis.
What this means for your workouts?
When doing a workout there is a tendency to do repetitive motions. Those repetitive motions work through the same joints over and over again. Now imagine that this movement was a squat and that it was done without awareness and one knee is twisting each time. Even if it is just a tiny movement of the knee out of alignment it could be causing other compensation in the body.
Through becoming more aware of where your body is in space and how to feel when things are moving well it enhances the workouts by making them more efficient and less likely to produce injury.
Starting to develop more awareness in ourselves!
To start to develop awareness in our bodies there are some simple movements you can start with. You will need a tennis ball and a small bouncy ball (like the ones you get out of a gumball machine, there are 8 packs sold for $1.99 at King Soopers).
The tennis ball is to start bringing awareness to your feet which in turn will loosen the body up all the way into the hips and low back.
- Start off by taking a walk and get a baseline for how your feet feel when you walk and what your knees, hips, back and shoulders feel like as you move.
- Then standing or sitting with bare feet roll the tennis ball under one foot very slowly and gently. It isn’t about putting a lot of pressure through the tennis ball but about feeling the sensation of the tennis ball on the bottom of the foot. In fact if you are standing most of your weight should be on the foot that isn’t on the tennis ball. You want to do this slowly and be conscious of what you feel. This sense of sensation work to repattern the nervous system and teaching it where your foot is. That is why it is important to get the whole foot including all the toes! Do this for a minute.
- When finished take a walk before doing the other foot so you can feel what has shifted then do the other side! This can be done throughout your day and even while sitting at your desk to keep you back loose during the day!
Increasing awareness of our feet gives us a better sense of grounding and support from our lower body allowing our upper body to be able to rest and not try to hold us up so much! When we can connect to our feet we can also access more power from out lower body which is important when doing your workouts. Think about the way you do squats and notice next time if you are using your whole foot to do the movement! If not then you lose some of the power. Try doing to the tennis ball exercise before doing squats and see if you notice a difference in the way you do them! For more information on Squats be on the lookout for my next post!
Next use the bouncy ball to do the same thing for your hands! This is best done if you can use a table to rest your hand on!
1. Once again take a walk and just notice how your neck and shoulders feel.
2. Take a bouncy ball and place it under the palm of your hand and then rest your hand on the table.
3. Roll the bouncy ball under your hand for a minute like you rolled the tennis ball under your foot. You want to feel each finger with the bouncy ball and the whole surface of the hand. Remember it is the sensation of the slow conscious movement that creates there patterning of the nervous system so that your body is more aware of where your hand and arm are.
4. While doing this be aware of what the ball feels like on your hand and make sure to take deep breaths. Also watch that you’re allowing your shoulders to rest and your armpits to relax!
5. Be careful to be very light near where your hand and wrist meet as this is where there are nerves.
6. Do one side and then take a walk. See what the whole arm, shoulder and neck feel like then do the other side!
This is a great way to warm of the shoulders especially before/after an arm workout!
Do you want to learn more about how to be aware in your body especially in your workouts?
Watch for more information and a follow up post in April!
We will be going over Pushups, Squats and other exercises to help with biomechanics and form with the intention to reduce injury!
Lauren Harmon Certified Rolfer™
Certified Equine Structural Integration Practitioner
Rolfing ® Structural Integration Longmont and Fort Collins Colorado