This blog post is both a book title, The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, and an apt reflection of how I feel about moving. The more I move, the happier I am. A day without ample movement is a day where my body and mind feel less than content, less focused, and less agile.
Author Kelly McGonigal has detailed numerous stories about people who have undertaken either extreme physical challenges or undertook movement to heal their bodies (or both!) Along the way, she inserts glimpses of the neuroscience behind human body movement.
This morning I posted my review of her book to Goodreads, and am including here some of my review, along with additions.
I found portions of the book that resonated, the first dealing with music.
When listening to music, we listen with our muscles. -Oliver Sacks (pg 98)
I have taken three Dance for Parkinson’s trainings, and was heartened to see McGonigal include this approach to movement, the premise of which is that music coupled with dance training is beneficial for people living with Parkinson’s. In addition, I have written a bit about the impact of music on the brain and movement, including Music as Therapy: Music, Movement, Cognition! on the SharpBrains blog.
This next quote is applicable across so much of life, not just movement. These are words of encouragement coupled with a firm belief to not give up.
If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving. -Martin Luther King Jr (pg 107)
As a lover of human anatomy and a teacher of yoga who occasionally suggests turning the corners of the mouth up towards the eyes, I especially appreciated learning the name of the muscle responsible for this movement: zygomaticus major. This muscle “contracts reflexively, similar to when a physician taps your kneecap to make your leg swing.” Our external movements, from facial expressions to body position, let us “talk” to the world.
The body is how we translate what is happening inside us–thoughts, feelings, desires–into something observable that other people can understand. (pg 116)
Finally, one more vocabulary word that speaks to yoga as well as movement in general: proprioceive. I have long known that proprioception is an individual’s sense of where their body is in space; this is something we consciously or unconsciously consider whenever we move. McGonigal discusses how empathy while watching someone else move causes us to proprioceive it.
When you watch others move, you don’t just perceive this action. You proprioceive it. You receive it into yourself. This is what empathy does: It creates, in your mind, a felt sense of what you are observing. (pg 149)