Have you ever tried to get up off the floor without assistance? Try it. Get on the floor and stand up without the help of another human being or a coffee table. Did you “cheat” and use your hand(s) pressing down on your thigh?
I remember hearing this and thinking, Busted. My body (or perhaps, my mind) was searching for ways to help me get up as opposed to just doing the action with simple efficiency. Clark added, “To be able to read the feedback your body gives you is a skill.”
I had heard the phrase “listen to your body” at least a thousand times at this point in my yoga journey and I realized that this repetition had diluted the teaching for me. I had taken body-listening for granted. Embarrassingly, I had just assumed that since I was an avid yoga practitioner, body awareness was happening, with no real need for me to get more involved.
I had considered body-awareness in more of a yin mind-set: listening was about receiving information from the body in a passive manner. Clark taught me that I could take a more yang approach and actively pursue body-listening as a skill.
Danny moved about the room like a jungle cat, without a trace of arrogance, jumping off boxes silently and climbing stairs as if his feet barely touched the steps. He seemed incredibly aware of how his physical body could interact in harmony with his surroundings and by having this awareness, he emanated a self-assurance that was heartening.
Danny acknowledged that his competence was a learned skill. I could feel the inspiration swell in the room when Clark assured us that he had practiced to get to this level of comfort and capability in his body and that he still practiced daily to maintain it. Danny made us see that physical proficiency would require effort, but it was available to all of us. I left the training positive that I could become more comfortable and adept in my body with consistency and patience and by prioritizing movement in my daily life.
Getting up off the floor without the use of my arms became my own personal measure of physical adeptness. This relatively simple task requires a multitude of movements that can strengthen hips, glutes, legs, and core. As well, the task challenges balance and encourages healthy joint mobility in the knee, hip, and spine. Doing this movement multiple times throughout the day strengthens and stretches the body in small doses. These doses add up.
How do you find time to practice such a movement multiple times a day? Get rid of the temptation -- your couch – and sit on the floor.
Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health With Natural Movement, defines movement as “any physical change in shape”. When you sit on the floor, you will stretch your body and stimulate joints and tissues in ways you can’t even imagine. You will shift and change positions and create a variety of shapes with your body. Let’s face it, couches do not encourage this mélange of movement.
Bowman has a video where she takes the viewer on a tour of her home, pointing out all the ways her family has transformed their house into a movement-rich abode. The first time I saw it, I found the tour both inspiring and daunting. Katy’s home offered simple solutions to encouraging movement and stretching throughout each day, but her house certainly didn’t emulate the typical American home.
On her tour, Katy points to a bench off to the side. This wooden, cushion-less bench is the only raised seating apparatus in her entire house. She explains the bench is for guests that come over who are unable to sit on the floor and adds the bench is “not super comfy because we don’t want to encourage sitting.”
The couches, arm chairs, and settees we have scattered throughout our homes are little cozy pitfalls, tempting us at all times to “take a load off”. The issue is, “taking a load off” translates literally: by taking a load off we are taking away the load-bearing pursuit of standing or sitting without support. We succumb to gravity’s downward tug and we plop down in a sea of pillows, removing all strain from the body. But stress is necessary in appropriate doses – this is how our bones and muscles stay strong.
Sitting on the floor is not comfortable, but this is actually the point. While couches allow us to nestle into a cushiony time warp, sitting on the floor does not; which means we bend and stretch and shift and look out the window and pay attention and stay more attuned to our breath.
I promise the mantra is not to keep moving and never stop. Quite the opposite, incorporating more movement in small doses throughout the day will grant you immense appreciation for stillness. You will know stillness at its true depth because you are intimately aware of its opposite. You will also come to inhabit a more relaxed physical nature as you learn to sense the slightest tension in your tissues, giving you a corporeal gauge to monitor your stress levels.
Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat® and author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement, says that “moving more doesn’t always allow you to move better, but moving better always allows you to move more.”
Like nutritional variety, it’s important to keep regular and diversified movement in our lives - what Katy Bowman calls “nutritious movement” - but we also want to make sure that through our regular movement we are actually accomplishing better movement and becoming more competent in our bodies.
The better it feels to move, the more inclined we are to do it. When you become more skilled at a task, the action becomes more enjoyable and you will do it more often. By doing the action more often, you will become more skilled. It is a cycle of competency.
Carefully experiment with your body by sitting on the floor more often and see if after a week or so you feel different. Give yourself a goal of achieving less aches in your spine or less crackling sounds in your knees – something simple – and test whether sitting on the floor accomplishes this goal.
I can tell you, I have been couch-less for nearly two years and I can only report good news. When friends describe aches or pains and ask for guidance, I gently offer the solution of avoiding the couch for a bit and sitting on the floor. They usually look at me like I’m crazy and most of them dismiss my recommendation with cynicism.
But a few have heeded my advice. And those who have, report back that it helped. Do I think that they, like me, will be so convinced that they will get rid of their couch? I don’t.
But maybe you will.