I remember being in Wushu (or Kungfu) class quite a few years ago learning some of the basic stances.
“Extend your arms all the way out” said the teacher.
“But... I am” I thought to myself.
A quick look into the mirror across the hall told me otherwise. There was still a little more straightening of the elbows that could happen, a little more straightening of the back, pushing out the hips and raising the upper chest. It’s funny how I initially thought I had completely extended all my limbs and thought I was doing it perfectly until I observed myself through the mirror.
Once my form was corrected, I could feel the unfamiliarity and vulnerability. It was REALLY uncomfortable. This was unfamiliar territory. There was too much of me extending out into the world and that somehow seemed wrong. As if I wasn’t supposed to do that.
And that’s how I’d lived my life. Retracted, restrained, hidden.
Over time, I realized that by practicing Wushu consistently, I was using an outside-in approach to opening myself up. By opening up the body, I was starting to become more expressive, more daring, more present. There was a noticeable boost in confidence. I even noticed myself being more expressive with language.
To me, the mind (I’m using this term in the most conventional way, there’s a rabbit hole here) and the body are one thing. I believe the term “mind-body connection” suggests that they are two seperate things and therefore I don’t use it much. I think of them as expressions of each other in a single system.
The fact is that when your physicality changes, your mind changes. When your mind changes, your physicality changes. If it’s not your default setting, walk around with rounded shoulders, a sunken chest and a half frown on your face for a day and see what it does to your thoughts.
This is why we encourage first developing good posture and mobility and then activities which engage the body in ways that help it expand its range of motion and expression.
I have a client in his 40’s who finds it liberating to jump on a trampoline every morning with his kid. Of course, he’s at a level of fitness that allows him to do so without any complications. Another client is following an in-depth book on stretching and is really into it. Both of these guys are introverts who, just like myself in Wushu class, are consciously using movement to “open up”.
Others are doing yoga. Most of our clients are doing some form of martial arts.
So I guess this is just a little reminder to recognize the body and the mind as one system and to use that information to liberate yourself. Find those areas of tension, find those limitations and make it a goal to free them up. Bruce Lee would agree.