Function (kinetic consciousness)
One may analyze any movement experience through the perspective of exercise science, particularly musculoskeletal function, such as the pushing, pulling, extending and contracting actions of the body involved in any physical activity. This perspective of understanding and assessing movement is typically paired with, but is not limited to, personalized fitness programming.
When experiencing personalized fitness programs targeted at increasing one’s cardiovascular, muscular strength and endurance capacity, attention is usually paid to quantitative indices that delineate the frequency, intensity, time and type (FITT) of activity. Tracking such indices might be essential to providing motivation for, and accountability to, becoming fit. In addition to the quantitative measures that define the fitness experience, the Function register of flow consciousness in our Function2Flow model draws attention to the fundamental extending and contracting actions of the body (Smith & Lloyd, 2007; Lloyd & Smith, 2010) that derive from “primitive and integrated reflexes, righting reactions, and equilibration responses” (Bainbridge Cohen, 1993, p. 122-156). Thus, the functional register of movement consciousness also involves the body’s fluidity and the maintenance of an anatomical dexterity that allows these primary and elaborated motions to fit the environments in which we find ourselves and in which we choose, at times, to engage in strenuous activity. Pushing, pulling, extending, and contracting give rise, developmentally, to standing, walking, running, swimming, kicking, throwing, holding, catching, swinging, leaping and landing (Gallahue and Donnelly, 2003). We assign, as enabling conditions for these motions, the physiological, anatomical, and biomechanical indices of aerobic capacity (max VO2), muscle strength (isotonic and isometric contractions), body composition (percentage body fat) and flexibility (range of motion). But these measures of physical potential do not encapsulate the range of flow motions that are produced when we realize that: the capacity to take up oxygen is literally the capacity to be physically inspired to move; the strength of one’s muscles is not so much a hardening of form as it is a proprioception of tone and tension in and around the musculature, ligaments and tendons that allows for definitive movements; the fat composition of one’s body is but an indicator of the composure of the body and its organs that is required to move in particular planes and patterns and through various postures, positions, gestures and expressions; and joint flexibility is the attestable result of cultivating and maintaining a supple responsiveness to, and resonance with, the environments in which we choose to play, dance, and create sports and recreations.
When you experience a mainstream or alternative activity, you may consider the following prompts to better understand the role of muscular function:
- How would you describe the fundamental movement pattern that is at the heart of your desired activity (i.e., are you sitting, standing, reaching, twisting, etc.?)?
- What body parts and muscles are involved in your activity?
- What muscles contract in your desired action?
- What muscles elongate in your desired action?
- What muscles relax?
- How might this awareness help you refine this action?
- How might this awareness transfer to other activities?
Form (aesthetic consciousness)
One might analyze, teach and assess movement from the perspective of refining outer bodily form, e.g., the shape and pathway of a movement (as detailed by Laban & Lawrence, 1974; Laban, 1948; Laban, 1975) that can be performed on the basis of the functional capacities. Movement Form may be initially construed as the fundamental movement skills – those of locomotion, stability and manipulation. These skills can be reduced to techniques of, say, jumping for distance and landing to preserve that distance, balancing in a handstand and then rolling forwards, or throwing a chest pass with a basketball. Yet, a skillful action rests essentially on one’s capability of executing a motion or movement sequence in a particular activity context. Hence, one might also attend to Form as it applies to the game or activity as well. It is, after all, the particular configuration and composition of the long jump pit that determines the nature of the leap and landing. The mat surface’s resilience invites the handstand and cushions the roll. The movements of players on the basketball court suggest the expediency of the chest pass. Yet, whereas the contextual references for movement capabilities have traditionally involved just the constructed environments of gymnasia, studios, indoor and outdoor courts and playing fields, the inclusion of alternative activities infer a much wider range of activity settings. As Margaret Whitehead points out: Children need to learn how to engage with the “phenomena of the natural world” such as “gravity, gradient, fixed and moving objects, and water” (Whitehead, 2001). The motions of such engagement need also to be applied to the activities that take place in constructed environments, and increasingly so, those environments in which the activities are technologically mediated, from the use of simple tools and equipment, to digital media. This array of contexts then suggests not simply the application of fundamental movement skills to particular games and sports, gymnastics, dance and alternative environment pursuits, but also an exploration of movement capabilities that may well be constitutive of newly created activity forms. The incorporation of meditative and martial arts (e.g. Ragoonaden, Cherkowski and Berg, 2012) along with circus arts and flow arts (e.g. Price, 2012) in health and physical education programs is indicative of the range of contextualized capabilities that can be developed.
When you experience a mainstream or alternative activity, you may consider the following prompts to better refine movement form:
- What body shapes/positions make it easier to perform your activity?
- What body shapes/positions make it harder to perform your activity?
- Think of your body, from head-to-toe, with attention on bony reference points such as the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle, and describe in detail where you wish to place each part during the beginning, middle, and end phases of your movement.
- What cues/positional tips could you tell a peer to improve their performance?
- How does your bodily form adapt to different conditions and environments in which your activity is experienced (different terrains, weather conditions, objects, equipment, etc.)?
- How might the refining of body positioning in this activity transfer to other physical activities?
Feeling (kinaesthetic consciousness)
One may understand and assess the process of becoming physically educated in relation to the inner sensation of movement, such as musculoskeletal tension or elongation, the quality and sensation of breath, the proprioceptive qualities of balance, as well as the expressive possibilities that such sensations afford.
The inner sense of movement is very much connected to movement form and it is important to understand that the Function2Flow approach encourages interdisciplinary integration. As such, the Feeling register of movement consciousness is intricately linked to movement Form. Hence, what is kinesthetically sensed and felt in poses, postures, positions, gestures, and expressions properly establishes a requisite self-awareness towards the onset of Flow. For if the Feeling or ‘kinesthetic’ register is the “inner touch” of the external senses that gives to us a “sense of sensing” (Heller-Roazen, 2007), then the Form or ‘aesthetic’ register properly brings this inner sensing to fuller expression. To ‘look fit,’ even to be a ‘picture of fitness,’ is to harness, momentarily, the flow of vitality within vibrant stances and alignments, dynamic changes of position, gestured motions of contracting and extending, pushing and pulling, sending and receiving, striking and arresting, and even expressive details of the face that are reflected in the carriage and bearing of the fittingly physiognomic form.
In specific activity contexts, we communicate very physically through the effort qualities of the movements enacted, the spatial arrangements and relationships created in the passages of play, and in the body shapes taken to convey specific intention. Curricula of health and physical education tend to interpret such self expression in conceptual and cognitive terms, suggesting that it is based on an explicit awareness of what the body does, where it moves, how it moves, and with whom (e.g. Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010, p. 24). One might consider, however, that this communicative competence involves a more primary, visceral sense of the body and its ‘expressive possibilities’ based on the movement exploration of breathing, balancing, timing and touch. By exploring the qualities of kinesthetic sensibility through breathing activities such as running, swimming, and yoga, balancing activities in gymnastics, circus arts, and climbing, timing activities in dance, juggling, and hooping, and touch activities in martial arts, contact sports, and horse riding, one learns to physically ‘read’ the overt intentions of others and to communicate one’s own.
standing, walking, running, swimming, kicking, throwing, holding, catching, swinging, leaping and landing (Gallahue and Donnelly, 2003). We assign, as enabling conditions for these motions, the physiological, anatomical, and biomechanical indices of aerobic capacity (max VO2), muscle strength (isotonic and isometric contractions), body composition (percentage body fat) and flexibility (range of motion). But these measures of physical potential do not encapsulate the range of flow motions that are produced when we realize that: the capacity to take up oxygen is literally the capacity to be physically inspired to move; the strength of one’s muscles is not so much a hardening of form as it is a proprioception of tone and tension in and around the musculature, ligaments and tendons that allows for definitive movements; the fat composition of one’s body is but an indicator of the composure of the body and its organs that is required to move in particular planes and patterns and through various postures, positions, gestures and expressions; and joint flexibility is the attestable result of cultivating and maintaining a supple responsiveness to, and resonance with, the environments in which we choose to play, dance, and create sports and recreations.
When you experience a mainstream or alternative activity, you may consider the following prompts to better connect to what you feel both in your muscles and mood:
- Describe the rhythm of your breath during your activity. Is there a time when you typically breathe in, breathe out, and/or hold your breath? Pay attention to the phases of your activity and take time to sense and refine your ideal respiration cadence.
- What body parts are you squeezing while you perform this activity?
- What body parts are you relaxing while you perform this activity?
- How do you respond to the feeling of tired muscles during your activity?
- How might you respond to these feelings and move with more efficiency?
- How would you describe your partner’s/ teammate’s body language when you see them perform this activity? What emotions do you think they are they feeling?
- When you perform this activity, what emotions do you feel?
- Is there something you might adjust in your movement timing (i.e., making it more slow or more quick) to change how this movement feels?
- Is there something you might adjust in the amount of force you use to perform this movement (i.e., how soft, light, heavy, hard, etc.) to change the way this movement feels?
- Does awareness of these variations in movement quality influence your participation in this activity?
- Does this awareness transfer to the way you might experience other activities?
Flow (energetic consciousness)
One might understand and assess movement from the degree it exudes a sense of vitality, a sense of being fully alive. Hence one might attend to the energy experienced between the person, the motion (Shusterman, 2008; Sheets-Johnstone, 1999), others, and the world at large (Merleau-Ponty, 1968).
The energetic register of flow consciousness is the realization of interactivity (and relativity) as the fundamentally human and more-than-human condition. Vitality, bodily vigor and movement liveliness are primarily indices of ‘fitting with’ others. Becoming physically educated with the Function2Flow approach is a process of kinetically, kinesthetically, aesthetically and ultimately energetically finding resonances and synergies with others. We look to the emerging fields of “energy psychology” (Mayer, 2009) and “energy medicine” (Dale, 2009) for the “quantum affects” (Schwartz, 2007) of this energetic register of flow consciousness; however, the broad practices of fitness (including those of nutrition) that bring us to the energetic register of flow consciousness are readily evident in a progression of kinetic, aesthetic, kinaesthetic, and energetic flow motions. “Einstein tells us that the Special or Restricted Theory of Relativity came from a feeling in his muscles” (Leonard, 1974, p. 169). Similarly, much recent “quantum” thinking about “waves” and “particles” is finding, through appeals to “morphic fields” (Sheldrake, 1995) and “biocentrism” (Lanza & Berman, 2009), its way back to flesh and blood bodies and their interactivity with other similarly constituted beings. We need not delve too deeply into these fields of energy research (McTaggart, 2008) to acknowledge the vitality-enhancing register of flow consciousness and the importance of engaging in flow motions that energize us (Smith & Lloyd, 2006, Lloyd & Smith, 2012).
When you experience a mainstream or alternative activity, you may consider the following prompts to better connect to the emergence of flow:
- Did your movement have a consistent rhythm?
- Did the perception of time in performing the activity shift from ‘clock time’ to experiential time (i.e., did time speed up or slow down?)?
- Did it feel effortless?
- Did you feel a sense of connection to your environment?
- Is there an animal that comes to mind that would perform this activity in an effortless way? What might you do to move more like this animal?
- Did you feel a sense of connection to your peers?
- Did you feel a sense of connection to the object (manipulative/ equipment) used in this activity?
- How did your desired plan for performing this activity compare to your actual experience?
- Did you have to ‘stop to think’ on occasion as you performed this activity, or were you able to think in the motions of your activity?
- Were you able to adapt in a seamless way to the circumstances that presented themselves to you in the moments of experiencing your activity?
- How did you experience your partner’s participation in this activity? Describe your degree of interconnection/ synergy.
- How would you design an exercise/program that prepares you for experiencing rhythmical, effortless movement in this particular activity, and in other activities?