I had the pleasure of attending an Evolve Move Play seminar with Rafe Kelley a couple of weekends ago in London. Always a student of the body, I have many movement teachers who inspire me on a daily basis and Rafe is one of them. As a former runner, I came to understand how limiting only running as exercise was for my overall ability to use my body well. I had become a movement specialist, working on my running form for many years but neglecting many other forms of movement. I was movement starved in general being mostly sedentary the rest of the time.
With a history of back and foot pain, over the years I had carefully gotten to a place where I no longer had those issues. I had slowly created a body that was fit to run but not capable of much else, and I was definitely one of the least flexible people I knew.
Since developing a movement practise using Restorative Exercise, sitting and moving closer to the floor where possible and letting go of running, I find myself in a place where I am more willing to experiment and challenge myself in other ways. As I have written about on this blog, by continuing to change the environment I move in, I feel more stable, flexible and stronger than I ever have in my life.
Many of the people I work with have a history of pain or injury and are fearful of movement. It is my hope that over time they will slowly recover their confidence and not be limited or feel paralysed by a diagnosis they once received. By developing a body awareness and getting comfortable with more movement in a safe environment they will begin to feel empowered and strong in their own bodies eventually, as I have.
Back to the seminar. What took me there was a love of nature, trees and the outdoors. Two days playing on Hampstead Heath just seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. I had no idea what to expect and it was probably one of the most physically challenging things I have done. I was completely out of my comfort zone.
To begin with, I was only one of two females in a class of 30, one of whom was my husband. Looking around the group, I was one of the oldest too, many of whom were skilled movers. It would have been so easy to turn around and go home! I am still on a long road back to the freedom of movement I enjoyed as a child but I firmly believe I can claw some of it back even as I age, indeed I have already. I would never have taken part in something like this a year ago. Thanks to Rafe, the other coaches and the group in general I was never made to feel like the total novice that I am. The more experienced participants were patient and willing to offer advice and support.
Staying close to the ground, we rolled, fell, crawled, climbed, vaulted, roughhoused and played in the unpredictable and at times wet London weather. We must have been an amusing sight to the Heath users. I wear very little on my feet these days, preferring the freedome of my beloved Luna Sandals, but as we were venturing into the trees, I decided I would put on something more resembling a shoe. Within 5 minutes they were off as I just didn’t feel safe on the branches in shoes. Used to being barefoot a lot, the shoes, minimal as they were, didn’t give me the necessary feedback I needed to feel safe. I spent the entire weekend barefoot in the dirt, it was fantastic.
Every part of my body spoke to me at the end of the weekend but I did not feel tired at the end of either day just completely energised. Surprisingly my ego didn’t suffer rather there was just an acceptance of where I am at right now. I came away with an awareness of my current limitations and a desire to continue to explore and challenge myself in many ways and work to overcome some of my fears.
What was especially wonderful, was that I didn’t really think about how I moved at all. I just moved. Confident that I wouldn’t break and comfortable with where I am currently at. Out on my own, in a culture where adults no longer move or play like this, it’s so easy to feel self-conscious. In a group of likeminded people all doing the same thing, this was not an issue.
I will continue to seek out opportunities like this not just because it’s fun but because I am outdoors getting lots of nutritious movement, movement that we could all do with in this sedentary culture of ours. Movement that is essential to our health and can allow us to thrive as we age.
Be inspired by this amazing video of Rafe: