Feedback from Long Term Exploration of Barefoot Running and DNS Yoga

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Robert Kiyosaki

I asked Kerri if she would be kind enough to contemplate and capture what she has noticed as a result of an approximately 14 month immersion in attending 2 of my classes per week.

I am very grateful that Kerri has taken the time to do this, as I believe what is shared below is a great example of what is possible if one is open to re-cognising that you already have everything you need to approach training, exercise and movement intelligently.  As Kerri so eloquently says “the only cost is attention!”

The other thing that has struck me reading Kerri’s words is that she has managed to summarise all the major findings in the research literature over the last 30 years, all from her own experience.

Enjoy a great read and summary of Direct Experience Learning

MY JOURNEY:  Barefoot Running and Yoga working in tandem

My journey over the last 14 months began when I joined Mark’s Bendigo Barefoot Movement sessions 5 months after surgical repair of a ruptured achilles tendon.  I was nervous about returning to activity, was unsure what rehabilitation was appropriate and worried about what limitations my injury might impose on future activity.

Initially I approached Barefoot Running as a way to regain my balance, strength and confidence.  It was about participation – and so I performed the slow-motion exercises, resistance work, jumping or sprinting drills – while acclimatising to the foreign sensation of running and training barefoot on grass.

However, my focus quickly evolved from participation to what I can only describe (too simply) as an opportunity to examine my inherent potential to move – and move well.

Each week we run forwards, run backwards, do resistance work using powerbands and a variety of crawling, jumps, lunges and lengthening stretches under Mark’s guidance.  Each activity is an opportunity to take note of how we move, review the inputs and our preferences and then experiment to challenge our non-preferred patterns.  Sometimes we “turn down” parts of our bodies that are telling us they are being over-used or even “tune into” others being challenged to work properly for the first time in years!

It’s about conscious attention to how we are moving, looking for efficiencies and making adjustments based on feedback  – from our own bodies, from Mark and even from other participants.

The sessions have also rekindled child-like fascination, simplicity and enjoyment with exposure to jumping, spinning, playing leap-frog or wheelbarrows or even playing “tag” – probably not done since we were children.  And there is an easy energy to be found via contact with our environment and earth, from group interaction and laughter, and from a focus on the individual’s journey and their inherent potential rather than on a numbers game.

In combination with those barefoot sessions, I know my personal journey, learning and rate of progress has been significantly enhanced with the addition of a group yoga session each week.

Kerri and I at Yoga

The yoga class has provided opportunity to focus intensively on changing or “re-engineering” the way I breathe and access core stability through intra-abdominal pressure.  There is a focus on maximising spine length and with it, developing good posture.  It is another mechanism through which to explore the way I function.  Gradually I am identifying and tackling some of the underlying body-use patterns which are holding me back from functioning well.

In yoga, Mark asks us to focus on three main things:

  1. the three points of support in each foot,
  2. length of spine and
  3. breathing in a way to maintain pressure in our “cylinder”.

Each week he takes us through a serious of poses or movement sequences to perform with this attention.  And as with Barefoot Running, the crucial element is learning to seek, explore and adapt our movements based on feedback – obtained from the pose itself, the surfaces we use (floor, wall, chair), from Mark or even from other participants.

I practice them at home and have been surprised over time at the way I feel changes are taking place, particularly with my back, hips, posture and breathing.  Sometimes it’s a revelation or break through as something becomes easier, less restrictive.  Sometimes it’s finding that I have more capacity or functionality.  It’s akin to re-wiring some of the connections that have been written between my body and mind over many years.  It is hard work.  But it is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done.

The yoga session is also about education as much as execution and though we may only be touching the surface of (or not even understanding at all!) what Mark relates to us each week, the evidence is there – in how each of us has improved – that it works regardless.

Working in tandem, Barefoot Running and Yoga have allowed me to explore concepts across two dimensions of movement and integrate practice from one class to another.  Barefoot has been about momentum, agility and large body movements and Yoga has been about focus, breathing and gaining increased length (of muscles, spine).

There are opportunities at Barefoot – for example running uphill – when I have paid attention to concepts practiced at yoga such as my abdominal breathing or focus on lifting from the crown of my head – only to be pleasantly surprised at being able to access an immediate increase in capacity, forward momentum or even lightness.   While Yoga has provided further exploration of larger body movements – such as walking, rising from the floor, rolling – with slower attention or in component parts with the aim of improving utilisation of things such as shoulder/hip girdle rotation, bone or muscle support mechanisms or minimising ‘lateral lean’ hip movement.

It leads me to wonder why the universal business mantra of “work smarter, not harder” does not seem to be applied to exercise and movement.  In that context it seems to be about measurement in hard terms – how far, how fast, how much weight, working through pain to achieve goals.

Barefoot and Yoga have shown me that we can work much smarter – we can access our bodies’ capacities and systems better; we can be more efficient; we can find ease, balance and naturalness; we can be pain-free without deterioration and most importantly, have fun living to our potential.

Overall, my work at both barefoot and yoga has made it acutely obvious that some parts of our bodies and functionality are so underutilised, while so many others parts are overutilised, working in contradiction to the way the body can actually – and would prefer to  – work.  And because of that we are suffering injuries and witnessing degeneration that we assume are a normal part of living.  I am now seeing evidence that it doesn’t have to be that way and that with attention and practice (and a guiding hand) we can tap into the inherent potential within our bodies and move freely and perform – or just live – well.

I know I am feeling stronger.  I feel more confident.  I don’t live thinking about injury and there is freedom and joy in moving or discovering that I can do more.  I do not feel like I am a prisoner to my body as I know many of my friends and family do.

Barefoot running & Yoga have taught me that the most challenging movements can be the most simple and that the benefits, while not always conventionally tangible or measurable, are actually significantly more valuable.  And the only real cost involved is attention.

I am very grateful for Mark’s help in this journey which continues.  I have friends and family who have been inspired by it to seek his help for their own particular needs.   You don’t have to be athletic or a runner to benefit from his approach.  We are extremely fortunate to be able to access a person of Mark’s professional calibre (particularly here in Bendigo).

I encourage others to make contact, get on board for whatever training or rehabilitation you are into – let Mark and your body show you how you can be doing things smarter.  Go on, surprise yourself.


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