As a physical therapist and a sports teacher I have been thinking for a long time that strength training is necessary to become strong. But since a few years I have come to realize that this might not be correct. In the picture next to this article you can see how a woman carries a load on her head and still looks beautifully aligned. It looks easy. That is the kind of strength I am looking for!
In my search for power and flexibility I have changed a lot and so did my teaching. When I teach a Power Workout class (or Body Pump) I tell my students to become aware of the floor, to allow the movement to happen and to find balance. I used to say things like “squeeze your buttocks, push against the floor and tense your muscles until they burn”. Instead of focusing on doing a lot of muscle work, I now focus on awareness while moving. The more aware you are, the less muscle effort you need. This does not mean that it is easy, because it does take concentration and a lot of practice.
In physics I have learned that all action leads to a reaction. When I stand with my feet on the ground allowing my weight to rest on the floor, the ground is pushing against my feet as well. This reaction force is equal to my weight and it is an upward thrust. Why would that be important? When my bones are aligned, that force helps me to be upright. I don’t need muscle power to keep me up. This is the force the African woman in the picture is using. You can see that she is grounded and at the same time she is upright.
When you lose your alignment you need muscle power to keep you up. In our society we lose alignment because of our way of living. We either slump or overextend. Using the legs as strong pillars that support the body is the first step to ease. Allowing the body to rest on the floor and allow the reaction force to keep you up! It takes a whole new approach, but it is absolutely worthwhile.