What Improv Teaches Us About Better Movement

I don't know about you, but I find something inspiring about improvisation.  Whether it's comedic a la Whose Line Is It Anyway or artistic in contact improv, the ability to create something from nothing and roll with the punches is incredible.

And I realized recently that the rules of improvisation have a direct link to moving better.  Which makes a bit of intuitive sense...after all, movement is a moment-to-moment improvisation (you can read all about how we make movement here

If you keep these improv rules in mind, you'll naturally start to expand what you're capable of in your movement practice.

I was reading a great little book called "Do/Improvise", and the author (Robert Poynton) laid out the rules in 6 words:

  1. Notice more.
  2. Let go.
  3. Use everything.

As soon as I read that, I was blown away.  That's exactly how we can improve our quality of movement too.  

Think about it:

  • When we improve our awareness (notice more), we boost the functioning of our nervous system and the organization of our bodies.  We enrich the sensorimotor dialogue between the central nervous system and the meaty bits of the body.
  • When we reduce excess tension (let go), our joints are free to move throughout their natural range of motion with more ease, and we reduce "neural noise" to further improve that sensorimotor dialogue.
  • When we move our bodies in natural, integrated ways (use everything) we find balance and symmetrical function without the complication of piece-meal approaches.  

So how do we put this into practice?  Try this:

1. Start lying comfortably on your back and tune in to what sensations you notice...where do you touch the ground?  Where is your body in space?

There's no need to fix anything at this stage of the game.  Just bring curious attention to what signals your body is giving you.

2. Settle into the ground.  Think of diffusing your weight throughout your body, seeping into the floor more and more.  Where can you release excessive holding in this position?  What can you let go of here?

3. Explore your body's natural movements from this position.  Can you roll from your back to your belly?  Can you reverse that?  Can you rock up to a seat?  These little movements are the building blocks of our more complex movements.

Notice more.  Let go.  Use everything.  These simple rules make a world of difference in your movement.  And if six words just feels like too many, Poynton gives us a condensed version as well...

Everything's an offer.

How will you respond?  

Everything around you contains an opportunity to move and be moved.  Every stair, every tree branch, every chance encounter with a friend in the coffeeshop...each is an offer for more movement and connection, both to our own bodies and the world around us.

How can you notice more?

What can you let go of?

How can you use everything?

Try it out, and reply back to let me know what you come up with.

What Is Movement For?

As movement culture seeps more and more into our broader culture, as we see more dance used in advertising, more acroyoga on Instagram, more attention brought to mixed martial arts, it's helpful to put in perspective: what is this movement stuff for?

On an organismic level it's how we interact with life around us.  It's how we get from A to B.  It's how we put food on the table.  It's how we embrace those closest to us.  It's how we stand our ground, lend a hand, and step into our own--our very language is saturated in movement!

The bulk of our movements are geared around keeping us safe and functional.  We hit the gym or yoga class to become--or stay--capable humans.  We intuitively understand that movement makes us better able to do the things we want to do on a day-to-day basis.  But too many of us see this as the end of the road.  We're functional, and we stay that way.  This is the world of fitness.

But movement is bigger than fitness.  If this is as far as we go, we miss out on real vitality.  We get by, but we're far from thriving.  Our movements are rote and robotic...our thinking soon follows suit.

At a raw, primal level we crave complexity and variety.  When we unbox ourselves and engage in myriad movements, we get to the root of what movement is all about.  We're geared to be creative, curious, and connected to the world around us...yes, even you.  But this is only possible when our baseline organismic functions are in place.  Creativity can't thrive when we're chronically overstressed or dealing with unresolved trauma.  Curiosity doesn't show up if we don't know how to function effectively in the world first.  Only when we've checked off safety and function are we capable of truly engaging with the world.  

This is what movement is all about.  It's about reclaiming comfort in and control over our bodies.  And at a certain point it's about swimming in the deep end, finding clarity in who and how we want to be, choosing what (literal) impact we want to make on the world.  It's your innate right.  Movement is how we get there.  Please don't settle for fitness.

Moving The Social Brain

We're social animals.  

Studies show that without a specific task input to distract it, our baseline internal monologue revolves around our dynamic social relationships.  We default to pondering how we are in relation to others. 

Tribe is as real a need as food, water, and shelter.

And at every turn we've put a barrier between ourselves and those around us: endless texts and emails with no real dialogue, a taboo of touch, an end of rough and tumble play.  It's hard to put words to the problem because we simply don't have the language in place for this raw physicality.  But we know that something is amiss.

Moving with another person has a way of cutting beneath.  After all sensorimotor dialogue is our native tongue, obviating the need for fumbling over spoken words.  

Creating in contact improv, striving in combative play, walking together in silence through the woods.  These are human things.  There's meat here, some real sustenance of connection.  

Grab a friend or a lover.  Create space to move and be moved.  Your humanity depends on it.


Coaching With Clarity

The hardest part about coaching is that there's no "right" way to do it.

It's vast.  It's mutable.  It's hard to wrangle.

Too often we go along on autopilot, piggybacking off of what we see other people doing.

But here's the thing: you aren't those people.  The way you teach should be your way.

This is something I struggled with for years.  And it's something I've helped dozens of other coaches and teachers work through: finding clarity in what we offer, why we do it, and how we can bring about the change we want to see in the world.

With that in mind I put together a worksheet to help you tame the beast.  There's no opt in, no sign up, nothing like that.  Just a few honest questions to help you get clear on how you want to show up in your professional space.

Click here for the PDF.


It Starts With Awareness

Through awareness we bring attention to our limits, the lines on the box.

With awareness we have a choice: change, or remain.  The choice to change broadens the box, giving us a broader field of possibility to play in.  Change is:

  • Unlocking mobility in new ranges of motion
  • Acquiring a new skill
  • Consciously shifting our perspectives

And so on.

But you cannot redraw your map if you haven't drawn it in the first place.

Take a moment to tune in here:

  • Where do you carry your weight?
  • What moves with your breath?
  • What is held or restricted?
  • What's possible in this space?

What are you aware of, right here and now?

What would you change?  The next step of course is: change it.  Nobody can make that choice for you.