Freeing Your Body


photo credit: tchola

Creative Evolution in the physical aspect of human life is all about freeing your body from the bounds of endless distraction and discomfort. Think about it: your body always seems to need something it doesn’t have. It always seems to be keeping you from doing the things you’d really like to be doing the way you’d really like to be doing them. It is a constant reminder of how inadequate and incomplete you are.

Since Creative Evolution in the body is driven by setting up opposition (friction) between your programmatic, biological script and your actual physical state at any given moment, we will begin this article by describing the script as it typically plays out in the physical realm.

Of the three primary biological drives, the one most at play in the physical body is the drive toward sexual reproduction. The others (injury avoidance, and popularity collection) are certainly involved, but the franchise player here is the need to pass on your DNA. This is in fact the master of all the drives, as the rest ultimately came about to enhance your ability to reproduce. Therefore, as we pointed out in our first Knowing the Machine article, the physical body is where the most fundamental mechanical programming resides, which means a wide range of work must be done to create friction between your script and your reality.

The script is essentially this: It will do just enough to survive long enough to reproduce its DNA, and after that … well, nothing much matters. This means that your body doesn’t really care how healthy you are into your fifties, sixties, and beyond, particularly if you’ve already had kids. It doesn’t matter to your body if you can jump up at a moment’s notice and enjoy an extended hike with your family, or if you’re physically prepared to help your neighbor move some furniture into storage after a long day at work. The physical script is oriented toward mere survival in the interest of increasing the likelihood of sexual reproduction.

This script can have some pretty negative side effects, especially as your body ages, and the side effects accumulate. These physical pathologies create pain and discomfort, ultimately distracting you from being able to express yourself fully and freely.

As we will see bound flow in every aspect of human life — mind, body, and spirit — is derived from dysfunction or pathology in that particular dimension. Dysfunction fuels fear-reactivity, which drives mechanical behavior. In this article, we will break down what we believe to be the three primary physical pathologies. There are many more specific dysfunctions that can be pointed out, but our aim is again at simplicity. Therefore, we will identify three fundamental problems that threaten your physical flow as you age. We will then discuss a few practical ways to unbind the ropes that hold you down in the physical aspect of your human life.

The Three Primary Physical Pathologies

Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is an immune response and as such it is a critical function within the human body. We can identify two basic types of inflammation — chronic and acute — and as with stress, the acute form can heal you, while the chronic form can kill you. Chronic inflammation indicates an ongoing, low-level immune response and is associated with a wide range of pathologies. Some of these problems are large in scale and obvious in nature, such as an increased susceptibility to autoimmune diseases, while others are more surreptitious.

Autoimmune diseases can be thought of as a sort of ongoing friendly fire incident within a person’s body. They occur when a person’s immune system fails to identify friend from foe within the body and begins attacking it’s own cells in one way or another. Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, Type 1 Diabetes, and Kawasaki’s disease are considered autoimmune diseases. The long-term, low-level immune response that causes chronic inflammation has the combined effect of making you less likely to get a bacterial infection, but more likely to develop some form of autoimmune disease later in life. Which sounds worse: a minor infection once every year or two, or chronic arthritis the last decade of your life?

In addition to making you more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, chronic tissue inflammation has other, more subtle consequences. One example would be in the area of leptin sensitivity. Leptin is a hormone that regulates energy consumption and expenditure. It circulates in the body in amounts proportional to bodyfat, and regulates hunger by acting on the hypothalamus. If the hypothalamus and surrounding tissues are inflamed, the result is a decreased sensitivity to the “adiposity signals” coming in from leptin levels. This requires more leptin to get across the feeling of satiety, which requires more bodyfat to be present, which causes more inflammation, which further decreases leptin sensitivity, and so on.

Poor Body Composition

There are many reasons we tend to grow softer around the middle over time, but the result is a physical dysfunction that keeps us from experiencing our natural free flow. First off, the proverbial deck of cards is stacked against us in this area because of a process called Sarcopenia. It’s name comes from the Greek for “poverty of flesh,” and there are conflicting definitions of what it is and precisely when it can be said to be present. What seems to be a consensus, however is that somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 years old, humans experience a natural loss of skeletal muscle mass coupled with the addition of bodyfat. This means we have to work actively against this process with resistance training if we want to maintain or build muscle mass into our thirties and beyond. Failure to maintain a healthy body composition also impacts inflammation. Cytokines are proteins associated with adipose tissue (body fat), and cytokines are involved in producing and regulating immunities and inflammation. As your fat cells increase in size — as you accumulate excess bodyfat — more cytokines are released. More cytokines generally mean more inflammation, which as we have already established can lead to a host of its own issues, including leptin insensitivity, which encourages you to get even fatter, which brings us to our third physical dysfunction.

Impaired Mobility

Due to a host of dysfunctions that arise over time, we tend to become less agile as we age. By the time most of us turn 35, without much genuine protest, we resign ourselves to the fact that we’ll never move as well as we did when we were 18. We speak fondly about the things we used to do with our bodies, and lament that age has taken it all away from us. Of course, we’re happy to accept this hypothesis, because it takes the responsibility off us — everybody likes a good scapegoat.

The reality is, however, it really isn’t age that robs us of our strength and grace in movement — especially not in our thirties, forties, or even fifties. It is more often than not a combination of more-or-less preventable issues that include our first two physical dysfunctions, as well as a cascade of related problems that Scott Sonnon calls the Wheel of Dis-Ease. The Wheel of Dis-Ease is a positive feedback loop — which is in this case a negative thing — wherein excess or out of balance Residual Muscle Tension (RMT) leads to increased Myofascial Density (MD), encouraging Sensory Motor Amnesia (SMA), which further exacerbates imbalances in RMT, and so on around the wheel. You can enter or exit the wheel from any particular spot, but once things get moving, it can quickly become a runaway train.

The Three Primary Physical Solutions

In order to counteract or avoid the discomforts and distractions mentioned above, you need to establish friction within the physical realm by reconditioning your body toward thriving as opposed to merely surviving. The following suggested practices can be seen as lines to be developed in the physical aspect of our Integral Flow Chart. The first two lines, Paleolithic Nutrition and Primal Movement, are designed to recreate what Kurt Harris calls the Evolutionary Metabolic Milieu, and the third line, Multi-Mode Hatha Yoga Posture Practice is primarily aimed at stopping the runaway train that is the Wheel of Dis-Ease.

Paleolithic Nutrition (PāNu)

PāNu is not the “Paleo Diet.” PāNu is not a “low-carb diet.” We should say that again – PāNu is NOT a “low-carb diet.” In fact, it isn’t “a diet” at all. It’s an approach to understanding how the food you eat affects the biochemical environment inside your body. This environment is what is meant by the term metabolic milieu, and the conditions in this environment are directly related to the presence or absence of chronic inflammation, autoimmune disease, and other so-called Diseases of Civilization (DOCs) we commonly blame on aging.

The Evolutionary Metabolic Milieu (EM2) describes the particular biochemical conditions in human bodies throughout the majority of our evolutionary heritage. These conditions are desirable because they are the conditions under which we thrived as a species in terms of genetic expression, and they stand apart from the Neolithic Metabolic Milieu found in many modern humans. Depending on whose body we’re looking at, we might find conditions like hyperinsulinemia, leptin insensitivity, chronic inflammation, and a host of other issues related to what is called “metabolic syndrome” — all conditions that were relatively nonexistent in the EM2.

The PāNu approach begins in the modern sciences of biochemistry and endocrinology, and asks about the general nature and the specific causes of the DOCs and related problems. It then looks back into history in an attempt first to identify if a particular condition is indeed part of our evolutionary heritage. If we find that it is not, we go deeper to identify specific causes of those conditions that might also be inconsistent with our long evolutionary heritage.

The idea is that we evolved to express our genetic code positively in response to certain conditions (many of which were within the EM2). If certain neolithic — meaning unavailable (or scarce) before the agricultural revolution — food sources can be associated with primarily neolithic health problems, it’s a good bet we’d be better off avoiding those foods.

For more on the approach, check out this post called, The Only Reasonable Paleo Principle at Kurt’s blog. For more on what foods don’t pass the litmus test, check here — Kurt’s 12 Steps to Paleo Nutrition — the short list (the 3 neolithic agents of disease) includes 1) high-fructose corn syrup, 2) gluten grains, and 3) excessive linoleic acid (an omega-6 PUFA). To get ideas for what and how to cook to rediscover your own EM2, explore our diet/nutrition blog archive. Also look at the anti-library and click around through the Blogs We Read links in the footer and sidebar of this blog.

Primal Movement

The type, frequency, and duration of physical activity in which you engage no doubt also impact your internal metabolic milieu. Therefore, if we take the PāNu approach and apply it to physical movement and exercise, we can draw some interesting conclusions here as well. What we tend to find is that many neolithic (modern) exercise paradigms are themselves contributors in the development of physical pathologies like overuse injuries, tensional imbalances in the myofascial system, and even conditions like heart disease. These paradigms include machine-based circuit training, many sport-specific training programs, traditional weight training for strength gains, and “chronic cardio.”

If we look back into our evolutionary history, it’s safe to say there were no treadmills or Nautilus machines at the local health cave. People in the modern fitness industry like to talk about functional training, and our ancestors were most likely shining examples of functional fitness. Any strength training during the paleolithic era would have been done carrying large rocks from place to place, digging up plant roots, lifting (or pulling) one’s bodyweight to climb trees or rock faces, or carrying a fresh kill back to the cave for butchering. Steady-state cardio was nowhere to be found, at least not in the debilitating form we see today. Sprinting was surely more the order of days past, since being able to elude or pursue prey at a moment’s notice was far more valuable than running a sub-4-hour marathon. Long distances were more likely traveled on foot at a slow, steady pace.

All these differences create opposition between the hormonal/biochemical environment within modern exercising humans and that within our paleolithic ancestors. This opposition — in concert with dietary differences — changes the way we burn fuel during and after exercise, the way we rebuild damaged tissue during recovery, and how we process hunger and stress hormones.

Our exercise strategy here at is to get back to what Mark Sisson calls Primal Fitness. The guidelines are fairly simple: move frequently at a slow pace, lift heavy things, and sprint once in a while, with lots of play and rest built into the mix. These basic guidelines can be structured into a program that aims at increased performance, or they can simply be employed intuitively and spontaneously throughout your life.

Multi-Mode Hatha Yoga Posture Practice

Posture practice as a line of development ultimately seeks to undo impaired mobility and the effects of the Wheel of Dis-Ease. The mainstream concept of the musculo-skeletal system is that of more or less isolated levers and pulleys that make things happen independently. The reality is that your muscles, bones, and fascia are connected in a continuous myofascial system, such that excess tension in one place absolutely effects other places throughout the system.

It functions much like a tensegrity structure, with a set of continuous tension lines (your fascia and musculature) that support a network of compressive struts (your bones). This new way of conceptualizing the body is called biotensegrity and was pioneered by Dr. Stephen Levin. The take-home point for Creative Evolutionists is that if we don’t pay attention to balancing the lines of tension in our bodies, we will exacerbate physical pathologies that our mechanical script doesn’t care to correct.

Multi-Mode Hatha Yoga Posture Practice accomplishes this goal by integrating the three technologies of the human body — movement, breath, and structure. Many of you might be familiar with one or another form, style, or brand of yoga, but our approach will most likely be different from anything you’ve seen or practiced before. We suggest a posture practice that includes asana, vinyasa, and prasara as “modes” among which you switch within a given practice to integrate your structure, breath, and movement. As we teach teach it, each mode will be informed by the principles of action outlined in Godfrey Devereux’s Dynamic Yoga method.

Below is a brief description of each mode. If you browse the blog archives you can find more practical examples of how they can be integrated into a single practice. Each mode is actually an integrative process by which two technologies are actively engaged and become more seamless, freer from pathology, while simultaneously revealing subtle information about the third, more passive technology.

Asana seeks to integrate breath with structure. When we are engaged in asana within a given session, our structure is informing our breath and vice versa, as we make minor adjustments over time to focus the energy of Creation and manifest the “perfect form” for our particular body in that particular moment. All the while, this interplay between breath and structure is revealing subtleties of movement unavailable to us when we are actively engaged in that technology.

Vinyasa seeks to integrate breath with movement. When we are engaged in vinyasa within a given session, our movement is informing our breath and vice versa, as we make minor adjustments over time to focus the energy of Creation and manifest the “perfect form” for our particular body in that particular moment. All the while, this interplay between breath and movement is revealing subtleties of structure unavailable to us when we are actively engaging that technology.

Prasara seeks to integrate structure with movement. When we are engaged in prasara within a given session, our structure is informing our movement and vice versa, as we make minor adjustments over time to focus the energy of Creation and manifest the “perfect form” for our particular body in that particular moment. All the while, this interplay between movement and structure is revealing subtleties of breath unavailable to us when we are actively engaging that technology.

A Cunclusion, Finally

This was admittedly a long article, perhaps the longest on the site; however, we feel strongly that the physical body is most confining aspect of the individual, at least in terms of presenting programmatic scripting that distracts you from expressing your innate free flow. We will be posting lots of links, articles, and videos related to the work that needs to be done in the physical realm, so we hope you’ll stay tuned!