The Transformative Power of Movement
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on March 6th, 2011

Yesterday, March 5, began a week of TI Teacher Training in Coronado CA. (Meet our trainees in the blog of Gail Flint, a triathlon coach from Edmonton Alberta.)

Shane Eversfield, the author of Zendurance, will lead the training with contributions from other TI Coaches including Shinji Takeuchi. During our intro, Shane talked of the transformative power of Mindful Movement. I decided to make it the topic of today’s blog, because the most accurate way to describe TI is not as a swimming-instruction program, but as a method of using mindful swimming to increase consciousness, self-mastery and ultimately mind-body-spirit health.

Shane, whose degree was in modern dance, told us that years ago he realized that decades of T’ai Chi practice had ‘rewired his brain’ to convert him into a Taoist. He’d mentioned this to me previously and I’d had the same experience.

Several years ago a reference to the “Tao of TI” on our Discussion Forum, caused me to search on-line for information on Taoism — which is a way of thinking, not a religion. What I learned led me to believe then that decades of TI practice had transformed my way of perceiving the world to have uncanny similarity to Taoism.

New TI Coach Beverly Peterson, of Hunterdon County NJ, shared experiences with swimming students of hers whose personality had undergone transformation as a result of overcoming a lifelong fear of swimming and learning to love it.

Shane noted that a far greater volume of nerve signals travel from the gut to the brain, than the other way, an illustration that we all have a physical intelligence which is less widely recognized and far less understood than the intellectual variety.

But physical intelligence clearly exists and is invaluable in helping us navigate the physical world with more awareness, grace and joy. The key to connecting with, and developing, your physical intelligence is Mindful Movement – a conscious effort to merge thought and action.

Mindful Movement involves these ingredients

1) Move as a Practice. Any form of movement, even something we consider the ultimate ‘no brainer’ like walking can be transformed into a practice.

2) Move with Intention. Choosing to move with full awareness is your first intention. Once you do, the opportunity for many further intentions will become clear, as you become acutely aware of how your body interacts with the earth, with water, and with natural forces like gravity. A simple example is to sense how each foot bears and distributes the load of your body’s weight and how that load is communicated through the bones of your leg and hip.

3) Move to Improve. Believe that any movement you make is improvable once you pay attention to its details, and experiment with tweaks.

Swimming has vastly greater – indeed limitless — opportunities to improve than any other form of human movement because of its great complexity, and because the aquatic environment in which we perform it is alien to our nature, anatomy and instincts as terrestrial beings.

And finally, groundbreaking neuroscience research has recently shown that the most powerful stimulus to optimizing the brain occurs when we link thought and action. Brain signals that direct movement coordinate far more areas of the brain and involve much more complex circuits than those that direct cognition.  Doing with an intention to continuously improve is most powerful and transformative of all.

2 Responses to “The Transformative Power of Movement”

  1. Antonio Diaz says:

    Hello , I think many of us feel this way but you explained it very clearly.
    Thank you.

  2. Dino says:

    i like to think of the pool as my aquatic church. Where everything is quiet and the focus is on breathing and making calm movements through the water. No wonder I always feel so relaxed after swimming.

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