I’ve been thinking a lot about… Habits.
I’ve been thinking about habits for a long time, and in this time trying to change some of my own.
I’m talking about movement habits; neuromuscular patterns that exist in our body that determine the way it moves, and interacts, with the person it carries, and the environments it meets. As a Bittersuite devisor and performer, I get to experience how this manifests in so many different bodies, and it continues to fascinate me.
Aristotle reportedly said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Implying that there is merit in repetition, in doing things again and again. Then again, there is the famous quote attributed to Einstein, that; “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
So, what are the instances in which doing something habitually comes to serve us, and when would we benefit from a little shake up of the well trodden movement path.
Cast your mind back over your day thus far…
and see how many moments you can recognise as things you do everyday, in the same way. The way you put on your jacket, the shoulder you carry your bag on, the position you sit in on the bus, are all shaping the way that your body is. Your body, which is an incredibly complex make up of systems designed to work in the most efficient way possible. I watch my daughter move, and am so envious of her deep squatting ability and the ease with which she moves up and down from the floor, that it makes me want to never sit her on a chair or put shoes on her incredibly dextrous feet for want of not placing patterns into her body that compromise the way it was designed to, and currently does, move.
Break a habit; stretch your eyes…
I’m very glad you’re reading my blog, but I’d like you to stop, just for the next few minutes.
Take yourself away from your screen, go outside (ideally), or to the nearest window…
Cast your eyes as far as you can, look to the furthest point in the distance, and really see it. Blink a bit. Really see it some more.
Our eyes and the muscles attributed to them benefit from a little change up of their patterns as much as any other part of the body…
Habitual, repeated movement in many instances causes a build up of muscular imbalance. That’s what strength training is; many a bicep curl will give you a bigger bicep. But, how can we recognise the things that are giving us that twinge in the lower back, that shoulder pain, that sense of reticence in the body to ‘just go with it’ as you sit down with your Bittersuite performer, and look to switch things up and make a change.
Habitual movement pathways of course reflect, and in turn create, habitual pathways in the brain. It is also true that in imagining a movement, the synapses in your brain needed to ultimately perform that movement will still fire, even if you remain still. The authors of ‘Keep Your Brain Alive’ give you 83 (!) ‘neurobic’ exercises that “use your five physical senses and your emotional sense in unexpected ways and encourage you to shake up your everyday routines”, with a view to keeping your brain healthy. They offer the simplest of things to give your body new stimuli; “Take a completely new route to work. Shop at a farmer’s market instead of a supermarket. Completely rearrange your workplace or home desktop or table or kitchen surfaces for a day.” Somatic techniques, working with the ‘soma’, or "the body as perceived from within”, the like of which we refer to so much in a Bittersuite process, look to examine and challenge just this. Body / mind / mind / body…
In my mind (and in my body) it starts with awareness. With recognising your habits and paying close attention to the way that your physical body moves through life. And then, looking to make some changes.
It is this awareness that we look to cultivate throughout a BitterSuite process; a BitterSuite performer must be so innately aware of how they use their body, and what that communicates; entirely accountable for their habits. And in turn they will encounter a habitual body in an audience member… I’m wondering how much a BitterSuite experience can bring about conscious change of someone’s use of their own physicality. From the person that jumped up on their chair at barely being guided to do so, to the person whose arm was so stiff it was near impossible to lift it; are we giving people an opportunity to see themselves more clearly, and to bring about an awareness that continues after the musicians have stopped playing and the blindfold is removed?
This challenge remains, I think. So, I hereby challenge you!
To challenge your muscle memory and neuroplasticity to create new pathways. Which means a change in blood flow to certain cells. Which means that those cells get a new lease of life and can serve you better.
Let’s be creatures of change…
Blog post by Anna Pearce
Co-founder and head of Outreach for BitterSuite
Independent Movement Director