The Seven Keys
Discover the 7 Keys of Fitness and how they integrate to create skillful and improved movement. Some keys are old keys, and some keys are new keys. Whether your passion is an athletic endeavor, artistic performance, leisure activity, or your goal is increased comfort in your daily work task or with your chronic pain; you can learn to improve what you do with ability, comfort and grace.
Blended disciplines and targeted training make up the components of skilled movement lessons. The Feldenkrais Method®, Pilates, Yoga, Swiss Ball Exercises, Bones for Life Strength Training®, and an understanding of motor learning and neuroscience weave together to create a personal design for improvement. Clients often come in and say, with this work, "I am walking further," or "I have shaved time off of my marathon." They are often surprised because they do not struggle for these results, they just happen as the body moves in a mechanically improved way. All of us can benefit in a myriad of ways from personal attention to these keys.
— alignment —
Posture is Dynamic
This is an old key.
A well-aligned body moves with a sense of ease on the muscles and joints. Alignment is the term used to describe how the bones of the human body are stacked up in relationship to gravity. The skeleton should hold itself up despite the pull of gravity. With poor posture, the muscles have to do the job of the bones. This takes a lot of unnecessary energy and prevents the muscles from carrying out their main job—movement. Posture is dynamic, the spine is comprised of four curves that shift as one moves from one position to another such as from sitting to standing. When one curve of the spine changes shape the other curves respond and change shape as well. Optimal alignment means that we can transition from standing to sitting to walking with minimal strain or effort. The idea of sitting up straight by pulling the shoulders back is faulty because it uses muscle tension to correct the position. Ideal posture is not straight, but a series of curves.
We can learn to elongate into our ideal alignment and feel the support of the bones to free our muscles for our movement patterns through working with the nervous system and practicing strength training methods which elongate the muscles.
— STRENGTH —
Stability with Mobility
This is an old key.
Strength training is probably the most well-known component of fitness. Thanks to the past several decades of aerobics classes, personal trainers, gym memberships, and the more recent boom of yoga studios and pilates classes, most fitness-minded people are squeezing strength training into their workout routine. However, in our culture where we often think "more is better," many people have strengthened so much that they have lost much of their flexibility, which creates other fitness problems. In addition to loss of mobility, over strengthening can undo the balance of a joint which pulls the body out of alignment. For example, excessive thigh strengthening shortens the front of the hip joint, creating an imbalance that may lead to painful compression of the lower spine. Strengthening and stretching ideally work together to keep joints in balance. Certain strength training modalities such as Pilates elongate muscles as you strengthen, facilitating both muscle and joint health.
Many popular strength training methods isolate one muscle of the body at a time in a two-dimensional path. For example, a bicep curl is simply bending and straightening the arm at the elbow joint to strengthen the bicep muscle. One gains the maximum skill advantage with strengthening exercises that move the body in all directions in a fluid manner. These more complicated movements improve not only muscle strength, but also develop flexibility and the entire body coordination of the physical activity. They more closely resemble the physical skill. With our movement, we want to have the choice. If we are doing a movement where we need stability, we have it. If we are later doing a movement that requires mobility, it comes naturally.
Sense the Stretch
This is an old key.
There are three important reasons why stretching is an essential component to most fitness routines. Stretching increases flexibility, which:
Prevents injury (imbalance in flexibility or strength is a common cause of injury)
Increases range of motion (creating ease in movements)
When demonstrating daily stretches, clients often confess they do not feel their muscles stretching. Or, they do not know how to access the place in their body that is bothering them. Targeted and correct stretching techniques are extremely important to successfully increase flexibility. This includes maintaining proper alignment and knowing exactly which muscles should feel the stretch. Skilled movement techniques teach you how to stretch at home or on the go, so you get the results you need.
— NUTRITION —
More than just Weight Loss
This is a new key.
Essential for achieving optimal skill levels and maximum comfort, nutrition is not separable from fitness. The tissues of the human body respond directly to the chemistry of our diets. Although not clinical nutritional counseling*, skilled movement lessons include education about the pros and cons of individual physiological responses to certain nutritional choices. For example, for some clients with conditions such as bursitis, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain, nutritional errors can immediately trigger muscle spasms.
A crucial component of the 7 keys, nutrition guidance helps you learn how:
Joints and muscles react to certain food choices
Emotions are directly affected by food choices
Hydration prevents inflammation
Weight loss is more than just calories in vs. calories out
Healthy digestion is essential for a strong immune system and muscle comfort
To order food at restaurants to attain most comfort and optimal performance with muscle
To read labels and make healthier choices at the grocery store
*Note: Although not a clinical nutritionist, Donna has studied nutrition extensively through reading, research, and intensive study of the work of Dr. Henry G. Bieler. She is also a member of Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation and the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Moving with Awareness
This is a new key.
Kinesthetic perception refers to how one feels one’s body moving in space. It is the key to awareness. We can only improve the way we move when we have awareness of our self, our body and our movement habits. The system in the human body that tells one its position in relationship to the outside world is called proprioception. Comprised of input to the brain from cell receptors (called proprioceptors) located in the skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, along with sensor neurons in the inner ear, it tells us about our movement and posture.
The Feldenkrais Method® enhances one's kinesthetic perception because the lessons are usually done lying on the floor. Through feeling the pressure of the bones contacting the floor, one increases awareness of which body parts are moving. One becomes aware of the many moving segments of the body previously unobserved. It is now not just the "back" moving, but the "segments of the spine between the shoulder blades." By moving very slowly, with awareness, we develop kinesthetic perception of our body moving in space and in relationship to the environment. This learning is not about isolating parts of yourself. It is just the opposite--sensing yourself moving as a whole unit. Only when you know where you are in space and are aware of how you are moving can you change it, improve it, and advance your skill.
— THE NERVOUS SYSTEM —
Harnessing the power of the brain
A new key and a key of the future
One of the most powerful keys to skill improvement works with the nervous system as it relates to conscious movement, in particular the Feldenkrais Method® of neuromuscular reeducation. What Moshe Feldenkrais knew back in the 1940's, neuroscientists are proving today with technology and research studies. The most exciting discovery is that the brain can change and improve far more than we previously believed possible, especially the part of the brain that controls our movement.
Feldenkrais taught that by moving slow enough for your more slow-acting motor cortex to notice what you are doing, your body recognizes the efficiency of the new pattern and integrates it. Unlike many fitness teachings, which offer repetitive corrections ("Relax your shoulders. Relax your shoulders."), the Feldenkrais Method® puts you on the floor for a lesson that teaches your brain to change the signals being sent to the shoulder girdle muscles. In this example, the result is less tension in the muscles. The student stands up and has relaxed shoulders without trying to relax them. The brain created an immediate improvement. The results from these lessons may include improved balance, increased flexibility, and enhanced stability. This work is extremely powerful and produces tremendous, long-lasting improvements and efficiency in movement skill. A body that trains in this method often feels more youthful and more comfortable.
OLD WAY OF THINKING
Stiffness and poor posture must happen to me as I age
I carry my tension in my shoulders
I am not flexible
No pain, No gain
NEW WAY OF THINKING
I can increase flexibility and improve posture as I age
I do not have to carry tension
I can become more flexible than I realize
Pain equals strain, and should be avoided
OLD WAY OF MOVING
When I walk I hold my abdominals and torso strong
NEW WAY OF MOVING
When I walk, my ribs, spine, and pelvis move.
— REST —
What yogis knew centuries ago the scientists are proving today
A new key... give yourself permission
Rest has long been an ancient key with yogis and those who meditate, but in our fast paced society it still remains a missing component for most. This is due to a faulty mindset that it is not important, or that the activities requiring more effort yield greater results. The benefits of rest must be re-learned. Thanks to recent research in neuroscience, we now have data to support this ancient teaching. With recent emphasis on the benefits of meditation and sleep, including book publications and journal articles, there is increasing awareness of this topic. We see elite athletes taking time to rest, yet most of us ignore our own need. Physical therapists recommend that we rest for one full minute before attempting a second set of an exercise, yet most people rush through routines to get out the door in the morning.
We see elite athletes taking time to rest. Neuromuscular techniques, such as the Feldenkrais Method®, ask us to do half as much and to move very slowly in order to change the pattern in the brain. Learn how to weave the benefits of rest into your fitness regime and your work day.
Benefits of rest include:
Healing from injury
Maintain new learning