Body Connectivity: The missing piece to fitness
What is “body connectivity”? I often have people ask me that. My instinct response is pretty childish. A certain song pops into my head… You know the one… The hand bone’s connected to the… which bone? Ah yes, the wrist bone!
I think we all “get” that the body is connected. After all, how else would we be able to get all those 2,000 (or so) parts from one place to the next? But to know that the body is connected and to understand the implications of such a statement are really two different things.
What is Body Connectivity?
If there is one thing dancers do well, it is to pick out every problem with our own body. I had bad arches in my feet, my back wasn’t flexible, and my shoulders had numerous “issues.” It wasn’t until I was in my first kinesiology class as an undergraduate student at BYU that I realized just how connected the parts were. It was a time when I was able to see the body at a micro- and macro-level simultaneously. (Hello, body connectivity).
Our professor gave us a few common alignment problems and asked us to look at the entire musculoskeletal system, to figure out possible “causes” for each problem. It was a simple exercise, meant to help us prepare for an upcoming exam.
One problem stated: “What could be some of the causes or implications for the entire body if someone had scoliosis?”
At first, all I could see was the subtle curve in the spine—something that wasn’t unfamiliar to me since I had been diagnosed with (minor) scoliosis as a young child. I didn’t think it was a result of anything, just something I had. After looking at the skeleton for a few moments, I suddenly remembered that I also had a slight leg length difference. In my mind’s eye, I saw my right leg, slightly higher than my left causing a tilt of my pelvis. With the pelvis misaligned, my spine would accommodate by curving in a slight “C” shape.
In a horrifying movie that played inside my head, I saw my muscles pulling and tugging on different bones due to this misalignment, shifting my entire frame. It appeared to me that my whole body was “messed up” simply because one leg was a quarter inch longer. While all of this seemed a bit unfair, I began to understand how intelligent and truly connected the body was in order for it to respond and adapt to such a small thing. I realized that an injury in my toe could result in changes throughout my entire body. Body connectivity was a little frightening!
Without consciously thinking it, I came to realize one of the profound truths that I learned through the Integrated Movement Studies Program:
The whole body is connected, all parts are in relationship. Change in one part changes the whole. Acknowledging relationships between parts of the body brings the possibility for both differentiation of the parts and integration of the whole. (1)
Luckily, body connectivity is no longer a scary reality meant to torment my dancing self until the day I die. Rather, body connectivity has become an opportunity for change and repatterning. I think of the possibilities available to us in increasing our movement potential (both functionally and expressively) by realizing this profound fundamental truth.
Now, of course, the question is: So what? What do I do with this information?
Well, in my own experiences, understanding my own body connectivity has taken many years (and I still have more to learn!). Too many people today want an easy answer and quick fix. There will be more posts dedicated to exploring body connectivity more fully, but in the meantime here are a few ideas to consider that will hopefully help you progress toward the changes you want to see in your own health.
1. Check out Peggy Hackney’s amazing book: Making Connections. It is full of amazing information and wonderful movement experiences to help you get a better understanding of the beautiful orchestration of your body. It seriously is my “go to” movement book. It’s like the Body Connectivity bible. I own two copies. I love it. Get it. Read it. Do it. Now.
2. Next time you take a “movement break” (which we all do regularly, right?) Here are a few experiences to play with:
- Two Body Parts: Pick two body parts to explore. Close your eyes and see the pathway in your body that connect the two parts. (This may be difficult if you chose your left ankle and right ear, but the connection is there.) Then try moving in subtle and fluid ways while keeping that pathway clear in your mind. Try it with lots of parts.
- Opening and Closing: Try moving the entire body at once while extending out from your core and folding back in. Full bodied opening to full bodied closing. The key is to not leave any body part out. Did your head move at the same time as your legs? What about your tailbone? This is a great exercise for the neuromuscular system to reconnect to every part while keeping connection to the whole.
- Find opportunities to learn about the integrated nature of your body. Just this week I was at the chiropractor. It was a fascinating reminder of how my spine not only affects my posture (which affects daily life!) but how my spinal cord is deeply affected by my spine which in turn affects my entire nervous system, which affects my organs, which affects my energy… etc, etc, etc. Learn something new about an aspect of the body that seems foreign to you. Then, try seeing how it is connected to what you already know to be true.
- Exercise with purpose. Don’t try and ignore your body next time you workout. Think about your posture, your breath, the sensations of movement. This is one of the most simple and most powerful ways to reconnect to your body.
I promise this:
Finding time to understand body connectivity and reconnect your body (and back to your body) may be one of the most rewarding things you ever do!
(top featured image by Ben Heine, Flickr)
(1. Hackney, Peggy. 2002. Making connections: Total body integration through Bartenieff Fundamentals. New York: Routledge.)
This piece is from the “original” Thank Your Body Archives. Originally posted November 23, 2009. Updated and improved for your reading pleasure.