Your body is the way that you experience the world.
Although you might imagine that you can feel as others do, “putting yourself in their shoes,” ultimately, everything in your experience is driven by the information your body provides to you.
Our bodies are our mind’s proxy in the world. Through our five senses, we take in the experience of the world around us, translating it through the lens of our mind into a story that only we can write. Proprioception (provided in part by the joints of our body) tells us where we are in space. Our body may also have extensions of itself: hearing aids, contact lenses, wheelchairs. These help us navigate and explore our world with greater confidence and clarity.
When we have an injury or lose range of motion in a joint (for example, a shoulder), we are no longer able to move as freely there. The brain doesn’t receive as much information from that joint. Pain signals tell us that we should limit our range of motion, so we become more guarded and less free in our movements. In this way, a loss of confidence in our movement pattern corresponds to a loss of mental and emotional confidence. I know that when this has happened to me, I avoided activities I previously enjoyed. I experienced myself as more fragile and dependent.
Conversely, what happens when we are able to regain range of motion, or strengthen or stabilize a part of our body that we couldn’t use as well before? We feel capable, strong, more in charge of ourselves and our lives. Using the muscles of our body to lift something heavy, throw a ball, or grip an object translates to a greater sense of capacity and power. When we have more movement options– that is, if all of our joints have a full functional range for the activities that we want to do– we don’t need to be afraid of injury. We can trust in our own ability to support ourselves. And if we’re in less pain, we have less fear, more trust in ourselves, and more energy to tackle life challenges.
We should also note that there can be a similar sense of empowerment when we are provided with a tool that helps us to use our bodies better. Getting the right prescription for corrective lenses can be transformational. Employing a block in Triangle pose can change the body’s ability to feel strong, open, and steady in the shape.
Improving our body’s ability to interact with the world around us is a key component in mental health, which is why it’s such an important part of my work. I use the Functional Range System for myself and clients to safely improve and restore mobility. Mobility is a key word here– it implies not just flexibility (or passive range of motion), but the ability to be stable and strong within that range of motion.
Health and the ability to move well are privileges that we may not all enjoy in equal measure, and there are many conditions that might prevent us from being able to increase our movement capacity or strength. The focus for each individual client is always to capitalize on the body’s unique strengths, and to enhance its current capacities.
We all deserve to feel confident and capable in our bodies and minds. Working with my own body in this way has liberated me in unexpected ways.