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Running into Control

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

I recently listened to a podcast about the evolution of the human hips and buttocks. The podcast explored our modern anatomy's relationship to the action of running. What I learned was that the physiology of our fulcrums and levers, or joints and muscles, carries us forward into speedy strides that ancestors developed over many millennia to evolve with our ancient diets, activities, and livelihoods. Efficient running allowed us to move faster, become better fed through hunting and scavenging, and become safer from predators.

In the podcast, a researcher stated that running is a series of controlled falls. The phrase stuck with me for the past few weeks. Such a simple statement has me considering a few things about human nature and how we use our bodies.

Running is controlled falling.

In our modern reality, we aren't running for survival -- avoiding animal predators or hunting our everyday meals. Those who run typically do for exercise and/or enjoyment, for a sense of freedom in that runner's high. We run, and we exert this magnificent and coordinated control over our falls, to feel free. To feel better. To simplify this: We seek control through our bodies to be free in our hearts.

Consider our personal worlds and the feelings we share on a general basis. We navigate layers of complicated, heightened states such as anxiety, depression, coping, and distraction. These are all on a gradient of helplessness, or what feels like a loss of control. Often, with layered states as these, we become disconnected from our bodies. Spatial awareness, felt sensing, healing from pain, listening to somatic cues, and feeling comfortable and even joyous in our physical selves becomes difficult and maybe a bit bewildering.

How, then, do we reconnect? We grasp to that which is safe -- control. Control tells us that which is predictable, malleable, able to be manipulated. It looks different for every single person; it may be exerted through relationships, diet, routine, work habits, cleanliness, exercise...the list goes on.

Running is controlled falling.

Able-bodied people may use the body (however disconnected or not from it we are) to exert control, even on the subconsciously physiological level of fast, controlled falling. The body is in full control-fall while running. What a beautiful thing to ponder - that in our coordinated, somatically-intuitive, evolved activity of running, we can perhaps find a sense of safety that translates into a state of bliss. Control = safety = bliss.

Has it always been this way? Did our ancestors seek to run in the same sense that we seek to run in our modern age? Did they only run out of necessity or did they run to feel the oneness with the tall grass plains and the mountains? I wonder, when did the freedom of running become subverted to rise from a need to control, by reprieve from the dangers of an anxious society?

What is extraordinary is that humans are still evolving with running -- in our use now for coping in addition to developing physical stamina. I think this example of using body movement to feel safer and blissful is not exclusive to running, and can be extended to any form of movement or involvement of the body that an individual is drawn towards.

However, this idea that we exert control to feel better and to feel safe makes me think that we could learn to seek to experience safety, relaxation, and joy in acceptance rather than control. What might it look like to develop a general practice of open-mindedness and acceptance in our lives, and to grow a quiet and steady rhythm of inner strength and self-trust that is accessible through movement? Instead of moving to gain control, we move to surrender ourselves and deepen our internal wisdom.

Ultimately, we can learn much not only from the histories of our bodies on evolutionary and individual scales, but also through the with daily choices we make that tell of our relationships with them. I leave this post with reflective questions to consider:

  • How are you connected with your body, or how would you like to be more connected?

  • How do you feel when you move?

  • What movements bring you joy, and what movements bring you unease or distress?

  • How can or how would you like to be in your body to feel safe and with life?


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