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Movement as Medicine: Body Wisdom for Modern Times By Jamie McHugh, RSME

We live in exciting times. In the last 30 years, scientific knowledge of the human body has grown tremendously. Applications in the fields of bodywork, sports psychology and the somatic arts have similarly blossomed. You may not know many of these new developments in movement awareness and expression. Yet, it is worth the effort to find out about them as personal collaboration with your body is essential for ongoing health and well-being as you age.

Many of us are ignorant about our bodily intelligences through no fault of our own. Physical education in most schools, for example, is primarily sports education, using the body as an instrument to accomplish a competitive goal. Traditional physical education has little to do with understanding bodily intelligence or physiological self-regulation. It’s as if our bodies are high-end cameras with many options, yet we are taught to use them as if they were simply disposable ones.

In spite of the achievements of allopathic medicine and the proliferation of new wonder drugs, the majority of illnesses in our modern world are “lifestyle diseases”. These disorders, as doctors have pointed out, can be positively influenced by even minimal physical activity. The current debate over healthcare reform has not begun to address how teaching people to be more responsible, and responsive, with their own bodies can dramatically alter the landscape of medicine.

After many years of working with the body and its expression, especially with people challenging chronic disease, I began to formulate the concept of “movement as medicine”. What can we do for our health with what we have been given by nature? What technologies are hard-wired in our system that can be easily accessed and activated? I identified what I consider the five basic languages of bodily intelligence: breath, vocalization, contact, stillness, and movement. These five languages can be used for an articulate dialogue within your body, promoting physical health, emotional well-being and creative satisfaction.

These five languages are all forms of physical activity, so there are multiple pathways to pursue. Your health is not dependent on only a few standardized forms such as weightlifting, aerobics or even Yoga. Once you learn the grammar and vocabulary of these five languages, connection with your body is available at any moment. It is not necessary to create another segment in an overly scheduled life to squeeze in movement time. You are movement! Whether you take even a few minutes sprinkled here and there throughout the day, or give yourself a longer time frame for practice, the use of the five languages can make the difference between living anxiously and breathlessly, or graciously and securely.

Not taking advantage of the harmonious design and functioning of your body creates inefficient action. This not only wears out your system, but also diminishes over time the pleasure of being a moving body. If there is no pleasure, any fitness/wellness program you undertake can easily become another chore or a bother. Look at the ease of movement in animals or children; a cat’s stretch and a child’s play is not an exercise, but a way of life.
In my workshops and individual sessions, I teach you these tools – the five languages of breath, vocalization, contact, stillness, and movement - and a method for collaborating with your body: playfully, pragmatically, and pleasurably. Ongoing use of these bodily languages is more likely if they are personally useful and pleasurable, and also if they evoke your curiosity and creativity. So, take a moment now - and each day hereafter - to appreciate your body, experiment with your body, and enjoy your body!

Copyright 2009 Jamie McHugh – all right reserved

Jamie McHugh, RSME is a Registered Somatic Movement Educator and a fine art photographer. He is a master teacher of somatics, and has taught body-based work internationally for thirty years. Jamie developed “Somatic Expression”, an innovative approach to somatic movement education and the expressive arts. He is adjunct faculty in the Holistic Health Department at John F Kennedy University and at Tamalpa Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area. His teachers include Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Emilie Conrad, and Anna Halprin. www.somaticexpression.com

Jamie will be at ASIS Massage Education giving a workshop called ASIS Beyond the Table: Somatic Expression for Bodyworkers Aug. 13-17...please call 877-334-3348 to register or for more information see www.asismassage.com.

Photo by Jamie McHugh

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