Awareness is Power
You’ve probably heard the saying,
“Knowledge is Power.”
Awareness is a form of knowledge that can make you stronger, more powerful and even faster.
What, awareness can do that? Don’t you just need more and harder training to improve?
Whenever you move, be it to get from one place to another, to exercise, to lift weights or run an ultra-marathon, the more awareness you have the better. Awareness is power!
What kind of awareness am I talking about?
There are many kinds of awareness and it can be a fuzzy term. Often, we think of awareness as something for meditation, Yoga and other spiritual practices. While this is true, awareness is essential to exercise and sports as well. In fact without awareness, you couldn’t even get up off the floor to move, let alone sprint for the finish line.
For this article, I’m limiting awareness to that of the moving body, or proprioceptive awareness. For example:
- If you run, you need to be aware of balance, where you place your feet, how you’re landing on them. Are you holding something tight that doesn’t need to be held, thus wasting valuable energy?
- Weight lifters need to sense the alignment of their body in relation to the weights, the timing and sequence of the lifting movements, and their breath.
- Tennis, golf and baseball players need to sense how they’re transmitting power from the ground, through their legs and center out to their arms and racket or club. How much of your whole body is supporting your arm?
The Feldenkrais Method teaches, “Awareness Through Movement” (ATM), and what you learn can make you more powerful, stronger and faster.
But how? Don’t you just need to train longer to get more endurance? Isn’t lifting heavier weights and/or doing more reps the only way to get stronger? Aren’t sport specific drills the best way to hit or swing harder? Yes, of course but there’s more to it than that.
So how can more awareness help your marathon, one rep max or swing?
One way of thinking about an ATM lesson would be having a laboratory in which you can:
- Try out different connections within your body.
- Experiment with different ways of timing a movement sequence.
- Find out how you can better coordinate the tension and release of your muscles to move more efficiently.
- Find out from where you generate force and how it’s distributed through your body.
- Recognise when you might be straining too much and/or coming close to injuring yourself.
These may be some of the question you have.
Yes, one of the hallmarks of the FM is often moving slowly. Now you might think that moving slowly is a waste of time if you’re training to be faster. However, going slowly, at least for some of the time allows you to better sense what you’re doing. When you can better sense of HOW you’re moving, you learn to coordinate your movements more effectively and this can increase you efficiency, which is necessary for running long distances.
My friend, who’s been going to Feldenkrais classes says the teacher always tells her to find the easiest way and rest before she’s tired. How can that make me stronger?
Another idea from the FM is finding ways to do things more easily and with less effort. For a weight lifter, you might think that you always need to do things with more force to get stronger. You’ve probably experienced increases in strength can be had without adding muscle mass by improving your form. I’m not saying you don’t need to add muscle mass but using what you have, and in symphony with your skeleton will increase strength and you can lift more while also staying safer, i.e. better form. When you can find better alignment of your skeleton you will be stronger. By taking away the load of the weights, you are better able to sense other parts of your body and how they’re working together. The reason for taking frequent rests is that when you get tired, you feel the tiredness and not the movement. Form often suffers with fatigue. The rests also allow your brain to process the information from doing the movements.
But the ATM lessons don’t resemble the movements I do when playing golf, how can that help?
It’s true, the movements in an ATM often seem unrelated to sports specific patterns. There’s a good reason for this though. Training this way can help you develop greater awareness and proprioception skills so when you do pick up your racket, bat or club, you’ll be able to sense more of yourself and how you’re swinging. And when you don’t have the racket in your hand, you won’t be trying to repeat your swing and connect with the ball, so you can find new connections that might not appear on the court. Here’s a simple example: Doing a lesson with rotation as a theme, you start to learn that you can rotate different parts of you torso and spine to different degrees. You can begin to notice that there may be some ribs or parts of your chest and spine that you’re holding stiffly and can’t use for your swing. In fact, you may even be unwittingly reducing your power and accuracy! You may also learn that you can rotate or stabilise your pelvis in relation to the rotation. When you practice your swing again, you can sort out what needs to rotate and what needs to be stable.
These are just a few of the many ways that greater awareness can lead to more endurance, strength and power. I’d like to hear from you: In what ways have you found that increasing awareness has helped your sport or game? Post your discoveries in the comments section and we’ll compare notes.
If you want to experience this for yourself, come to our workshop, “The Power of Awareness.”
Until then, sense yourself!