We are a liquid. Our bodies are mostly liquid. We exist in a semi-liquid state. We tend to orient to our body as a solid, like let’s put this solid thing down over here in the couch, or sit it down at the screen and just leave it there for a few hours, and these habits will solidify our bodies, make them more rigid, less fluid, and less comfortable (or at least more numb). This attitude is an unfortunate, uncomfortable truth IMO about our culture. Embodiment is cultural, it’s taught to us by our community, consciously and subconsciously by witnessing what the people around us do (as well as inherited traumas and strengths). So if we think sitting 40-80 hours a week is normal and functional, well we end up with bodies that are shaped in a certain way and have more rigidity and our consciousness is similarly shaped, compared to those who maintain a more fluid relationship with the world, with their movements. And that’s life, some of us are required to sit for our work, so it’s unavoidable to a degree. But what I’m getting at is it’s a lifestyle choice, and that if we then think oh I’m just getting older, our bodies start falling apart, as a result of “age”, that this isn’t correct, its not age, its abuse, or neglect, or to put it kinder, its the result of your training. When I study a movement system, I’m always looking at what is functional about this, what is this serving, and then also where are the shadows, what isn’t getting trained, what is the weakness, what are the common injuries from this sport, or this system of movement, or this habit or type of work.
So this isn’t to vilify sitting, or make anyone feel bad about their job or lifestyle choices if they have to sit or stand most of the day, especially if they enjoy it. I’m just pointing out the long term significance of training our body in stagnant movement patterns, and encouraging a consciousness around our movement habits and how to cross train our bodies so that we are comfortable and ideally pain free in the long term. In order to counteract the influences of sedentary and chronic repetitive movement, which lead to stiffness, loss of ROM, muscular weakness and chronic body stress, in 20 years of clinical practice I’ve observed the following best practices. Deep relaxation exercises such as meditation, yoga Nidra, sauna and float tank, will address and down regulate the general tonus of the nervous system, facilitating the discharge of tension. For addressing the dominant structural and functional issues associated with repetitive motions as well as balancing the muscular system, I recommend yoga, yin yoga, pilates, feldenkrais, swimming, ROM exercises, gyrotonic, dance, qi gong, and bodywork such as Rolfing Structural Integration to specifically address these patterns. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but systems I’ve personally trained in that clearly provide benefit in this regard. It is best to work with someone trained in multiple systems of embodiment so that they may help to identify where your particular weaknesses and lack of ROM are.
I will also note there are significant numbers of folks with immune system and nervous system disorders for whom these methods won’t reliably help, my general advice is to take an experimental attitude, try this and try that and just continue on the journey of inquiry into what is arising and what are the factors that effect the symptoms. I’m not saying any of this to point fingers, like “it’s your fault”, but rather to invoke a sense of autonomy, curiosity, flexibility and experimentalism.
It is not just sedentary lifestyles that create structural and functional issues, many athletes that aren’t at the highest level of training have significant imbalances that are created by the repetitive motions of their chosen disciplines. Pain is the obvious symptom that brings many people in for bodywork, if traditional massage therapy isn’t resolving the issues, working with therapists trained in multiple systems and especially from a structural/functional perspective such as Rolfing may produce better results.