“When you are conditioned to do something, you’re not even aware you are doing it.”
~ Anita Moorjani
New York Times Best Selling Author of
“Dying To Be Me”
“Mirror neurons are a class of neurons that modulate their activity both when an individual executes a specific motor act and when they observe the same or similar act performed by another individual.”
~ PubMed Central,
National Library Of Medicine
Functional Movement is an exercise model that works large groups of muscles across the body with focus on stability and mobility.
As I mentioned last week, Functional Movement mimics our usual, normal-life, everyday movement patterns.
Does that mean that we are just naturally good at functional movement, or that our everyday movements are already functional?
I grew up in the south Russia, then USSR, in the region that was called “The Bread Basket of Europe” even before revolution. Summer and fall were the busiest back then – not just with harvesting, but also preserving what was harvested. Vegetable stores usually grew empty over winter, so the key to eating well throughout the seasons was making sure your root cellar was full.
There was picking, and sorting, and cleaning, and peeling, and jamming, and pickling, and fermenting. During the summer our tiny kitchen was chock full of jars – some turned upside down, some covered with blankets, some empty – waiting for their turn. Oh, and the smell of plum butter slowly bubbling away on the stove…. Come fall, all the hallways got lined with gallon-sized jars of fermenting pickles, tomatoes, and sauerkraut.
I moved to Moscow to attend university when I was 18.
Dorms and soon kids weren’t exactly the environment conducive to jam production and pickling. Our small family of four moved to Canada just a few short years after – and all my jamming pursuits got pushed even further onto the back-burner. We were busy trying to adjust and survive, never mind pickling.
It was this year – 35 years later and outta the blue – that I got back into it.
And you know what?
My body remembered it all….
My mom only just had to remind me, and suddenly it was all there: I knew what texture was right, how much salt to add – by taste alone, what to feel for and what to look for, living memories on the tip of my tongue, in the palm of my hand, in the touch, in the smell of it all.
And oh, the smell of plum butter…!!!
Humans – and especially human babies – are the most incredible learning machines, part and parcel because of mirror neurons. Mirror neurons (neurons are the cells that brain and nervous system are made of) allow us, among other things, to learn by mirroring others.
During babyhood we are like perfect little sponges, soaking and copying the actions of our most important people – moms, dads, our primary caregivers. This is how we begin to learn about and make sense of our world.
Copying how our parents’ move is a part of that process too.
We may have copied the way our father sat while reading his newspaper, gramma’s walking habits, or mom’s way to stand with one foot slightly turned out to a side. Unknowingly, we may have imitated our adult’s injury-forced gait or a clunky shoulder movement, and made them our own. This fertile soil is where our own dysfunctional movement patterns have germinated.
Even the way we breathe – deep or shallow? – is shaped by our families.
Since we learn the majority of our primary movements when we are very very young, these movement patterns become imprinted in our musculature, connective tissue, and even the nervous system – not unlike my body’s memories of moves and feels that I’ve absorbed at Gramma’s knee so many summers ago. The point is, they feel normal!
Normal with a capital N!
In fact, they feel so very normal that when we begin to develop a familial ailment – maybe you “inherited” your grandmother’s bunions or your mom’s headaches – we automatically sign them off as genetic.
“Runs in the family,” we say, not realizing that more than anything else – way more than genetics – it is the way that we move that shapes the length of our muscles, the space inside our joints, and the ease of our gait.
Recovering our Functional Movement is not a quick and easy solution, but it is a proven one. With awareness of what works and what hurts, our movement patterns can change for the better.
For many – myself and dozens of my students – that means moving with significantly less pain. It can also mean quicker recovery after an exercise session, a stressful event, or an injury; a more trusting relationship with our bodies; even improved mental clarity and better sleeps – all because our nervous system is no longer taxed by clunky movement patterns.
Perhaps the most valuable benefit of developing more functional movements is the ability to do more of what you love, to chase your dreams – or, as it happened in my case – to do something that you never even dared to dream about. No wonder I love it so!
Hey, my name is Julia
Living with chronic pain has taught me to look for solutions in unlikely places – places where most people see only problems.
Over the years I’ve gotten to be pretty good at this problem-solving and silver-lining finding thing.
So good that I felt compelled to share what I’ve learned and help others to find their sea legs while navigating, living, and winning their battle with chronic pain.