After my last post I realised that I had not said or asked what I wanted to ask.
What is on my mind is more of a hypothesis, or a potential principle for to build into a daily practice or even to build the practice around.
How to explain…
There is an idea from NLP called an anchor. In general terms an anchor is a trigger that leads to a change of mental/emotional state. It’s essentially the same idea when Pavlova rang his bell his dogs salivated.
When I hear some songs it takes me back to where I first heard them, the smell of gyms has certain associations for me. You can take the idea of anchors to events that are so everyday they are easy to take for background. I see the word ‘chair’ and an image of a chair flits through my awareness. No big deal, chair is pretty neutral to most people, but ‘snake’ is an anchor to more extreme states or emotions in many people.
These associations happen automatically, they make up the background of how we make meaning of sensory input.
NLP just gave the phenomenon its own name and suggested some ways to consciously use the phenomenon. Nothing especially new, comedians do the same thing with running gags to the point where all they need to produce a laugh is a single word, gesture or facial expression.
I could go into the implications for hours, but I’d rather get on and tell a story.
I can’t remember exactly where I read it but the story goes like this. A man sees an old couple dancing beautifully. He talks with them and finds they are far older than they look. Impressed and curious he asks their secret. They answer ‘Every day I go through my flexibility routine and I regain the flexibility I had yesterday, everyday I go through my strength routine and I regain the strength I had yesterday.’
Now from many perspectives this is not good training methodology. Where is the progressive overload? Where is the variety that prevents stagnation? Where is the learning that stimulates neuroplasticity?
I’ll ignore those questions and tell another story, or two.
There have been a number of studies in which older people were put into an environment that mimicked their youths. The music was from their youth, the furniture vintage, the newspapers thirty years old, and they were obliged to carry in their own bags and not treated as ‘senior citizens’. Both before and after a period in this environment doctors took measures of age and found that the immersion in the past had an essentially rejuvenating effect. Environmental cues act as anchors for youthfulness. I wanted to post a link but my searches are not turning up the relevant studies. If you know them please share.
My teacher Luo Dexiu is mostly known for his Baguazhang which he teaches enthusiastically. However I noticed that he is often more animated when he teaches Xingyiquan. I wondered about this. Luo was most into Xingyiquan fairly early in his training back when he was a young buck competing in tournaments, researching obsessively and playfully competing with his classmates who were a similar age. I decided that sharing Xingyiquan took Luo back to that time of his life, and it was this that boosted his animation.
Anchors again, this time movements that act as anchors to youth.
This is the principle I want to run by you. The deliberate retriggering of the nervous system through familiar movement that reminds the body ‘this range is possible, this level of force is possible’. The deliberate use of an association that becomes more automatic through its daily repetition, and may have roots back to youth.
Which are the best kinds of movements is also something for another discussion, though I assume that a personal history with the movements is one factor.
Adopting this principle in daily practice does not mean you cannot also do the progressive overload, new movement etc as well.
If you think that my presentation of this idea is simplified I agree. There are many layers to any movement practice.
I’m also not suggesting that this will make anyone immortal. Everyone will do their last PR one day.
What I want to ask you is do you do this already? If you recognise that you do then how do you? If you think it’s a good idea how will you explore or implement it? What else do you think about the idea?