Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Can Change Your Body

As a body specialist, I often hear people say things like, “I’m not flexible,” “My shoulders don’t do that,” “My left leg has always been weaker than my right,” “My mother’s toes were the same way, it’s just genetic.”  And this is alarming to me.
This is an indication that most people believe that they are stuck with their bodies just how they are.  When nothing could be further from the truth.  Our bodies are changing constantly.  Cells are dying off and being replaced continually.  Some tissues regenerate faster than others, but within the span of seven years, every single cell in your body has been replaced at least once.
The truth is that our bodies react and respond to what we do with them. And with some guidance and diligence, we can reshape and reform our bodies.  It is true that our tissues have memory; this is how we maintain our basic shape.  But we are also highly adaptable.  
As a child, I was fortunate enough one day to see a re-run of the syndicated “Jack LaLanne Show.”  I was so impressed by this man and the things that he was teaching.  “You can change your body!”  was one of the most impressive things I had heard in my young life. “You can control your health and your vitality by how you love and care for your body each day.”
He recommended stretching and exercising, drinking water, eating healthy and praying to help create a well-balanced, healthy mind and body.  And he was the first I had heard imply that our bodies and our minds are intimately connected and that it wasn’t possible to have one be healthy if the other was sick or neglected. I have been following this advice ever since and have, in fact, made my living spreading this knowledge. 
But I still wince when I hear people acting as if they don’t know or don’t believe that they are temporal and impermanent. 
I have been studying Body Tuning, a form of physical therapy, from its creator, Shmuel Tatz.  And many of the patients that come to him are battling with bodies that are not in the shape they want them to be in.  Maybe their thumbs are crooked, or their pelvis is tilted, or maybe their shoulders don’t move fully.  When people come to see Shmuel, they often ask, “Can you help me?  Can this be fixed?” I empathize with Dr Tatz because I’m sure he has heard this question hundreds of thousands of times in the forty years he’s been helping people.  At this point in his life, he seems to find the question so ridiculous that he seldom answers it with a straight answer, but often has some comical response. Unfortunately, since people believe in their permanence, they don’t get the humor and end up believing that they can’t be helped. 
I’m here to tell you that you CAN change your body.  And in fact, the shape that your body is in right now was your doing.  You have created your body.  What you have eaten, the way you move, the activities that you participate in, the way you sleep... all of these things are shaping your body continually.  If you change what you do, your body will change.
Now this is not to say that you can misuse, abuse or neglect your body for ten years and then come into one Body Tuning session and be suddenly changed.
Your body, and especially a connective tissue in your body called fascia has an extremely strong memory and will be attempting to maintain whatever shape you have created.  Even if you know in your mind that your posture should change, for example, you will have to deal with a very strong physical memory of your bad posture that is in your tissues.  This memory is there to serve you so that you don’t have to walk around always remembering how to stand. This memory makes no judgement about whether your posture is ‘correct’ or not, but it remembers what you do most and considers it ‘normal’ and therefore remembers it.  So, if you are endeavoring to change the way you stand, it will take some intentional participation on your part.  You need to spend some time retraining yourself how to move, or to stand or to drink more water or eat more vegetables, or whatever.
This new habit will initially feel ‘wrong’ or ‘weird’ because of the strength of our tissue memory.  But I have found that about three weeks of constant attention can retrain the tissues to start to feel a sense of familiarity in the new habit.
Then, the shape of your body will change.
I used to be one of those guys who couldn’t reach his toes.  About fifteen years ago, I made a commitment that I was going to one day reach my toes.  So I stretched and stretched.  I stretched a lot and then I stretched some more, and I never gave up.  It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but soon I was able to feel my toes with my fingertips.  I kept reaching and gradually improving and today, I can easily bend over and place my palms flat on the floor without bending my knees. 
I change my body a lot.  I love knowing that I have that ability.  And I’ve helped many people change themselves, too.  But first, they have to come to terms with the reality that they are the driving force behind the shape of their body. 
So the answer is: “Yes.  Dr. Tatz can help you.”  But he can’t do it alone.  You must participate.  He will give you exercises or alert you to awarenesses that you must have for the other 23 hours of the day.  Or for the other six days of the week that he’s not with you.  Come to a Body Tuner for help, but do your own work.  It is your body.  Yes, it can change.

No comments: