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Did you say Holistic?

As the holistic approach to movement is rapidly growing in popularity, and I often find myself regularly using the term to describe what I offer, I wonder what does ‘Holistic Approach’ mean or any of the other language that is coined along with it; mind-body, spiritual, [insert own language here]?

One thing I am almost certain of, is that there is most likely many different interpretations and no straight forward answer; therefore the perfect pre-requisite for something I would be interested in. The impossible possible (those of you that attend my classes will be very familiar with this)… so why not, let's explore the impossible a little!

One thing I know for myself that has been revolutionary in exploring what an ‘holistic approach’ may mean is developing sensory awareness. Sensory awareness was described by Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks in the late 60’s as exploring our functions through sensation to discover what is natural and what is conditioned. What enables us to be open to our present moment reality and what stands in our way. We can then more consciously occupy our bodies therefore offering a potential to question and explore a body we think we know by sensing ourselves from the inside to learn new ways of being. For me this has been crucial to my sense of health, wellbeing and inner growth. Allowing more options, more choice and dare I say, the ability to take more space (although I am still working on this)!

This offering of experience first, knowledge later, has enabled me to have a deeper appreciation for my own bodily sensations and experiences. A little like being a child again, I give myself permission to be curious and play, so even the most familiar of things can be explored again and again but in different ways offering new insights. What I love most about this, is the sense of ownership and connection over the developed knowledge with an underlying awareness that this holds a sense of truth to me and for me. Thomas Hanna describes this as ‘the body as perceived from within’ and talks of how this contains a truth that cannot be denied or taken away. A more connected and supported sense of self and our relationship to other is offered by the validation of personal experience and life. A type of sensual knowledge that I believe there is space to explore within any movement practice we engage with from a breath to yes, you guessed it, a good old squat!

Let's think Breath...

If we think of our breath for example and take a moment right now to just notice it…

  • How easy is it to just notice your breath and not change it?

  • Where does your inhale originate from? Mouth? Nose? A bit of both?

  • What about your exhale?

  • Is there a particular rhythm to your breathing? Moments of pause? A consistent flow?

  • Where in your body do you sense the movement of your breath? Shoulders? Chest? Ribcage? Belly? Somewhere else altogether?

  • How does this noticing make you feel?

When approaching body, movement, fitness we are often faced with a series of shapes to be executed with as near to ‘perfect’ form as possible. I question whether this serves the mechanical body (I also have many thoughts about the idea of the functional/fit/strong body but shall leave this for another day) more than the feeling body. If we allow ourselves to become more intimate with our sensing, feeling self, to notice where the body is without interfering, maybe that gives us space for more choice in how we respond. Creating a body that can move, express, communicate and experience in many different ways and qualities.

I am sure we have all had those moments where we look around and think, their leg is higher than mine, they seem to be able to get lower than me or a sense of frustration and judgement towards our own ability. But what if instead we move from the inside out, we begin in a place of honouring where our body is in this moment, this day, this space and use this as our starting point. We move from a place of sensing and feeling as opposed to aesthetic or what it ‘should or shouldn’t’ look like. Instead we move for ourselves in order to be in relationship firstly with ourselves and in turn other. Shifting away from the externally driven concept of inspiration, guilt or inadequacy and placing more value on a sense of internal feeling, experience and empowerment.

For me I think that is where I begin when I explore the concept of an holistic approach. Being in a more intimate relationship with my own bodily experience in an endeavour to validate that and empower myself to know that I have choice and am the expert of my body.

For I am who lives in my body, and has experienced my life.

I give myself permission to have a body that can...

move as freely as possible,

be curious, play and explore new things,

express and communicate in as many ways as possible.

My sole purpose is not to just execute movement,

my body is more than a machine,

I am a living bodily being who is alive and experiences the world.

I exist!

This starts with me so I can share with all.

So the question is… What does it mean to you?

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