#15: Becoming MovementWise with Tania Cotton

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Meet Tania Cotton, who reveals how she has helped individuals, including elite athletes, overcome health and performance challenges to do things in their lives they had believed impossible.  As a movement specialist, MovementWise film producer and LifeWise Podcast host, Tania shares the secrets to unlocking your potential to live life, love life and perform at your best.  Tania wants everyone to know that most pain, injury and disease is completely avoidable and that becoming MovementWise is the gateway to opening up a life of active opportunities.


  • Health
  • Performance
  • Injury Prevention
  • Durability
  • Adaptability
  • Posture
  • Movement
  • Self-Awareness
  • Inspiration
  • Hope


Your Performance Passport – A Guide to Becoming MovementWise by Tania Cotton – available to you when you sign up for an online or in-person Performance Passport Workshop.


MovementWise Films:

  1. Turning a Threat into an Opportunity Kate’s Story
  2. The Art of Health and Human Performance with Stéphane Lambiel
  3. The Sky is No Limit with Géraldine Fasnacht


It’s not just if you move, it’s how you move and why that is important.’
~ Tania Cotton


Read Full Transcript


Welcome to the LifeWise Show where we explore the things in life that make you feel truly alive. Today Dave Parkyn is turning the tables on me. Six years ago, I made a film with Dave and his wife Kate called ‘Turning a Threat into an Opportunity’. Interviewing them for this film and sharing their stories was a very emotional experience for them. Dave was suffering from significant knee pain and had been diagnosed with arthritis and then Kate, his wife, was diagnosed with breast Cancer. Their daughter, Sam, had a serious fall from her horse, and as a teenager lacked confidence in herself and in her body and suffered from severe depression.

When I first met the Parkyn Family, Kate, Dave and Sam, each believed that the best years of their life were over. Little did they know that embarking on a MovementWise Journey meant that the best years of their life were about to begin. In a very spontaneous interview, Dave took the opportunity to reflect over the past six years and asked me searching questions about what it really means to become MovementWise.

Dave Parkyn: So Tania, the last time the roles were reversed, the lens was pointing at me and you were asking me the questions

So if I think back Tania to when we first met which was when I had just been diagnosed with arthritis, and I’m sure you can remember me telling you then my thoughts, ‘Well I’m getting on a bit now – that’s just the way life is? I thought it was the beginning of the end.

And you’ve taught me through the MovementWise Journey that that actually isn’t the case; and with eating properly and moving properly, that now I have a daily routine where exercise is important every day not once a week but every day. And now I find myself at my age of 60 that I’m cycling every day and as an example, last week, on my road bike which you taught me to ride, I’m climbing up 16% gradients and enjoying it – just amazing.

Tania Cotton: Your story just there Dave, is so important for everyone to hear, because someone with a diagnosis of arthritis, many people get diagnosed with ‘arthritis’ and arthritis is just wear and tear, and wear and tear, accelerated wear and tear happens when we move badly; and if we have poor posture and movement habits we break our bodies down and it makes us old before our time. It accelerates the aging process. Yet when we learn to move efficiently then we become more physically robust, mentally resilient and resistant to pain, injury and disease. And it’s such an important key point for people to know. You can feel 10 years younger and do so much more – because it’s not just if you move, it’s how you move and why that is important.

Dave Parkyn: Talking from my experience on the MovementWise Journey where a lot of emotion came our for me when I was being filmed making these stories. How big a part does emotion play in helping you tell a movementwise story of one of your clients.

Tania Cotton: I think the emotional side of the journey is so important, and that’s what a lot of people don’t realize. They come to me thinking everything is very physical – that ‘there is something wrong with a bit of my body – my physical body’ and I think the big learning for many people is that they are the embodiment of their thoughts, feelings and emotions; and so being able to express yourself athletically, intellectually, emotionally – actually is all rolled into one and that affects our posture and movement habits. Our posture, you know - fear, you know – feeling in love, feeling in love with life, what does that look like, what does it look like to feel undermined and afraid or feel shame or feel hurt? We cannot separate how we feel, when we tell our stories, we all have a story inside our bodies and that’s what I’m interested about when I meet people, ‘What story do they have in their body, and sometimes the story they have now kind of locks them in; and then when you realize their past story and what they used to do you realize that there is actually a story there that they could tap into and if they have not had the opportunity, there is a story there that you can open them up to and show them that really life can be much much better.

Dave Parkyn: Can you give us some insight into your own career to date?

Tania Cotton: I initially trained as a physiotherapist and I then became very interested in movement. When I first trained it was all about treating people, and treating joints, and treating individual parts of a body. Somehow it did not ring true for me. I knew that there was something much more powerful that I could do and that’s when I realized that I really, from the age of 2 when I lost my hearing, started to look at people and their body language; that to really help people I needed to understand them as a whole person in the context of their lives. So I became very curious about movement. So I studied movement and looked at how I could look at the whole movement system which isn’t just our physical body – it’s how our mind and body work together. And really that’s what I pursued after my physiotherapy degree – I did a 4-year degree. I then went and searched out people who could teach me really about how the body works as a movement system.

Dave Parkyn: When did you have the first idea to create MovementWise?

Tania Cotton: I was working at the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre, and I had a couple of patients, patients from CERN patients – Olympic Athletes, and I realized that people just had no idea what they were capable of. There was only one reality for them at that time, and their reality was that ‘I’m in pain, and I have limitations, and these are my limitations. And when I saw them, and when you understand movement you look at the possibilities not the limitations, and I wanted them to see that as well. So when I saw you, and you came to me with ‘arthritis’ – that was the diagnosis; you saw that as suddenly your whole world had shrunk and you saw this as an incredible limitation. And you said to me ‘Well, at my age what do I expect and that means I won’t be able to do the sports I love any more. But Oh NO! Quite the opposite! When you learn how to move really efficiently, then you realize then you can do so much more than you think you can and also for so much longer. And the magic words you said to me during our journey was, ‘I feel 10 years younger than I did when we began this journey together’.

Dave Parkyn: What is the primary objective of MovementWise?

Tania Cotton: The first objective is to give people hope because I think that when you lose hope, that really living your life, that doing the things in your life that make you feel really alive aren’t possible; I want to show people that we can have injuries and accidents; we can have had bad movement habits but there is a way we can turn our lives around. And everybody can learn how to move differently and it doesn’t matter what age you are, what time of life it is – whether you are a student, or now you have children to look after; we can all learn and keep evolving and keep being able to do things that really allow us to live life fully. And that was the impetus to give people hope; and then to show them the way; to show them as a guide, to start to say, ‘in small, sustainable steps, I can show you how to get there’.

Dave Parkyn: What motivates you to do what you do? What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

Tania Cotton: I realized over the last, over many years that I hate seeing people suffer, and I don’t know where that comes from? And I hate unnecessary suffering and 25 years’ of experience working as a health care professional has shown me that most pain, injury and disease is completely avoidable; and therefore when I see people suffer unnecessarily, it seems that we must do something about this? So really that is my big motivation. And no-one should have to do this alone, and they need to know that there is help out there, and I want through MovementWise for them to know there are people out there – me, and I can connect them with other people. There are some amazing experts and individuals who can share their stories, like yourself – you with your story with Kate have already helped people. So when I help you, and then you help others then the ripple effect is that we all impact each other’s lives in a positive way.

Dave Parkyn: What would you say is the biggest challenge for all of us to live a happy healthy life in today’s world?

Tania Cotton: I think it’s, yes we could look at technology and how our environment has changed, and becoming sedentary, but I think it’s about our whole attitude to life. How we live life like an emergency and we are living in that 5% of our conscious brain, and so we have this analysis paralysis and always thinking of what we have to do and pushing ourselves; that we have forgotten how to feel. We’ve lost touch with ourselves, and really feeling in our body how we move and how we feel and how our mind and body are connected. And we’ve lost touch with nature! I mean, nature has been designed to support us. In fact our body has been designed so cleverly, and when we realize it, we can really enjoy moving. But nature, something as simple as gravity, so, you know lots of people when they’re tired, they don’t use gravity, but actually with very little effort, gravity can open us out and change our whole ability to be connected and to move efficiently; but also in how we communicate and use our body language.

Dave Parkyn: Now looking forwards, Tania, how do you see MovementWise in 3 years time?

Tania Cotton: I would like MovementWise to continue making films of individual stories because I think the power of storytelling is number 1. If you haven’t experienced being in a hole and you don’t know how to get out, seeing someone else do it, I think that’s very very powerful. So I would still like to be able to make films, on subjects that touch many people’s lives. And that the LifeWise Podcast, that I think enables me to give people access to experts in many different subjects that show people that change is possible – people have to know change is possible and that there are many wonderful people out there who can help them. And then for the workshops, I would love people, lots of people to have access to giving themselves the gift of having 2 days just to think about them and to moving from a place of uncertainty, fear and limitation, to suddenly a place of possibility where they can run for themselves; but they can also feel supported, and find the right support around them. My focus really is on that one person who needs help and I really feel what it is that they need and I look at them as a whole person; and this relationship and this journey we go on together. I developed a new series of Rise and Shine sessions which aren’t just a series of exercises; there is a whole learning phase that teaches people the basic fundamentals of movement and then wrapping those up into a simple 10’ that they can integrate into their lives. So that they can ‘Practice without Pausing’, but first they really, really want to learn what to do.

Dave Parkyn: What would you say has been the highlight of your journey so far? Something that really stands out?

Tania Cotton: This MovementWise Journey has been like being at the University of Life. I think that the highlight for me is accompanying people on their MovementWise journeys, so that you are not just looking at one tiny aspect of their life, just their knee, or their muscles; you are looking at them as a whole person in the context of their life and you are seeing them being faced with a threat or a challenge and then you are showing them how to turn that into an opportunity. And when you see someone who feels small and diminished, and afraid, just gain confidence and go on to do things they never believed were possible, is so rewarding for me and then the knock on of that is when they then go and show others, you realize you really can all affect other people’s lives in a small way, in a really positive way, and then in a bigger way you had never imagined.

Thank you for joining me for this episode of The LifeWise Show. You can watch Dave’s Story – Downward Spiral, Kate’s Story – Turning a Treat into an Opportunity and their daughter Sam’s Story – Health in a Journey not a Destination available for free, on the www.movementwise.org.

In our next episode, I will be talking to Thierry Malleret, an economist and social anthropologist, and his wife Mary-Anne about the extraordinary benefits of walking and the science behind how it helps us make good decisions and enhances our physical and mental health, and wellbeing. It’s packed with top tips that won’t take much of your time.

I look forward to meeting you there!

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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