Mairi's MovementWise Journey

#4: The Courage To Do Things Differently

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When Tania mentioned that I needed the courage to do things differently, I had no concept of how differently things had to be done.

What I wasn’t aware of until the start of my Movementwise journey is that all my injuries were self-inflicted. Unwittingly, but self-inflicted nonetheless.

I am tall and was a very tall teenager so I stooped my long body shrinking down to the height of my petite school friends and shorter boys whom I longed to like me. The habit never left me and as I have got older I have started to develop what is called a bison’s bump at the base of my neck. This is a round hump is caused by my head hanging forwards after years of failing to lengthen through my spine or broaden my shoulders.

As a young adult working for a fashion magazine, I imitated the long, willowy models we featured and stood with one hip ‘swayed’ out to the side. Without holding myself tall and strong, or engaging my stomach and bum muscles, I have put unnecessary stress and strain on my hip joints.

For 54 years I have walked with long, stretched-out strides using my limbs to pull myself forward instead of using my bum and thigh muscles to propel me along. This way of walking has also put huge pressure on my joints. Tania and I have had many hours of “Bottom Banter” as we discuss how this was definitely a forgotten muscle for me.

Side by side comparison showing how I transferred weight onto one leg

I had no idea that every step I took I was swaying into my right hip rather than using my bottom muscles to stand up tall.

Carrying small children around on one hip, jutting it out to the side for balance, was terrible for my back and hips. As was carrying heavy objects without bending my knees. And as for my huge, over-sized handbag, which contained everything but the kitchen sink, slung over my right shoulder. To keep it in place, I walked everywhere at an angle with one shoulder up around my ears.

Embarking on my Movementwise journey, I discovered very quickly that it was not just my knee that needed ‘fixed’, it was all of me. Everything. From the way I walked to the way I stood, sat, balanced, where I held my hands, where I put my feet, all needed to change. However, after three operations and two tricky years of rehabilitation, I knew I had to do things differently. I was ready to embark on my Movementwise Journey.

MovementWise Journey Insights

Tania Cotton

Founder of MovementWise

The first day I saw Mairi, 2 weeks after her knee operation, she was in her kitchen stooped over her crutches as if her life depended upon them. When I look at Mairi today, she is so much taller than me, and full of life. On that first day home after her operation she looked so small and afraid, as if she had had all the stuffing knocked out of her and there was nothing left to hold her up.

When we are ‘down in the dumps’, feel ‘low’ and we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, we can become small and diminished both physically and mentally. How we feel inside affects how we express ourselves on the outside. The good news is that there is an extraordinary force that we can all tap into that can enable us to stand tall, face our fears, and do things that we previously believed impossible. It can help us lift our body and our spirits!  This incredibly underutilised and freely available force is called gravity.

Gravity can be ‘our friend or foe’ – and it’s basically up to us to decide.  When we use it wisely, and resist it to become tall, open and connected, rather than collapsing into it to become small, shrivelled and disconnected, it can give us the courage and confidence to stand physically and mentally on our own 2 feet and move forwards in the direction we want to go.

Every MovementWise journey begins with ‘self-awareness’ and Mairi became aware of how some of her ‘harmful habits’ were not just as a result of having had surgery, they had been developed over a lifetime of trying to ‘fit in’ and ‘make out’.  Like most people, she had no idea throughout that time that many of her posture and movement habits had been breaking her body down and making her old before her time.

My aim was to help Mairi get to where she wanted to go.  To get her back on her feet doing things how she’d always done them was simply ‘a road to nowhere’: back in pain, back in hospital and unable to enjoy life. Not an option!  Instead Mairi had to learn how do things differently, in a way that would enable her to become physically competent, self-confident and excited about taking on new challenges.

Tania demonstrating how to simply transfer weight onto one leg, something we do every time we walk

In every step we take in life we need to be aware that we can either become more physically robust or break our bodies down and become old before our time.

We are creatures of habit and our habits become hard-wired and resistant to change.  Moving differently can feel really ‘odd’ so we slip back in to our familiar comfort zone.  Mairi learnt that if it feels different – that’s great, we celebrate! If you continue to do the same thing you will get the same result and practice makes permanent.  Transforming harmful habits into healthy ones is like upgrading the software on your computer – everything works so much better.  Physical and emotional pain is like having a virus in our software, causing us to move awkwardly. Fortunately, we can overcome this by learning how to move in a way that minimises stress and strain on our body.  When we focus on what we want to do and move forwards in spite of our fears and life’s challenges – it’s a game changer!

Are you ready to take ownership of your life and to embark on a MovementWise Journey of guided mastery?  Do you have the courage to do things differently, to move beyond your comfort zone to discover a ‘New Normal’?

Begin by trying to do ‘just one thing’ differently.  I want you to feel the incredible influence that gravity can have over your body and your health and performance destiny.

  1. Imagine your head is full of helium, floating up above your shoulders.
  2. Broaden your shoulders as if you are trying to fill a doorway.
  3. Gently push down through your feet, in standing; or your pelvis in sitting, and feel how gravity pushes your body back up and allows you to grow tall.

Does this feel odd? Do you feel a little self-conscious?  Great – let’s celebrate!

Try this with a friend and take a before and after photo – seeing is believing.

Meet Tania Cotton

Tania Cotton avatar

Tania Cotton is a Movement Analyst and Chartered Physiotherapist with over 25 years' experience helping people overcome pain, injury and disease to lead a happy and fulfilling life. After 12 years as a consultant for the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre in Geneva, Tania began making films on health and human performance to show people what is possible and to inspire them to take action.

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