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Holistic Movement for Health

by Gina Pickersgill(more info)

listed in movement, originally published in issue 84 - January 2003


Regular moderate physical activity is well known for its stress busting effects, and works to improve a whole host of metabolic disorders.[1] Much research has been done to investigate the effectiveness and efficiency of physical activity and its impact on physiological and psychological measures of health.[2] Conditions known to respond well to exercise training are cardiovascular risk factors associated with a range of stress related disorders, such as central obesity,[3] diabetes[4] and hypertension.[5] Other conditions known to improve with both aerobic and weight bearing exercise include, osteoporosis[6] and some types of cancer. Recent research has also shown potential for the meditation and posture (asana) elements of yoga to improve conditions such as, hypertension, mood enhancement, asthma and lung function.[7] A programme of regular aerobic training can effect favourable changes in body composition, such as loss of body fat and corresponding increases in fat free mass, together with improved cardiovascular function.[8] In essence, exercise training helps to rebalance the body and mind in coping with the stress of daily living.

The Warrior Pose
The Warrior Pose

Although exercise is well known for its stress busting effects, it is not a panacea as the deleterious effects of over training are well documented.[9] A combination of high intensity exercise and psychological stress, both of which induce a stress response, can cause long-term physiological damage as result of chronic exposure to stress. Over exposure to stress hormones like cortisol is associated with an impaired immune system and can reduce the body's ability to fight infection.[10] The opposite of this, however, is an elicitation of the relaxation response, described by Herbert Benson, as "an inducible physiological state of quietude". This can both prevent and compensate for the damage incurred as a result of a chronically triggered stress response, as it helps reduce blood pressure and metabolism and balances homeostatic mechanisms of the nervous and endocrine systems.[11]

Benson discovered that an effective elicitation of the relaxation response required only a "mental device and a passive attitude" such that "a person could be jogging in a noisy street and still elicit a relaxation response". The key is in an athlete's ability to maintain a relaxed focus of the mind, which in fact can be achieved with mind-body techniques such as yoga. Yoga is holistic movement system that balances mind and body. Ragini Varia, holistic therapist and Founder of KiTherapy, a company specializing in corporate holistic therapy, reports that:

"Asanas (postures) are devised to work on the various internal organs that stimulate physical well being, the breathing increases lung capacity as well as oxygen to the brain, and is relaxing too as a stress reducing tool. The meditation stills the mind and creates space between thoughts reducing mental activity and therefore stress."

This article takes a similar integrative approach and aims to elucidate the factors that govern physical and psychological health in the context of Holistic Exercise Therapy.

Holistic Exercise Therapy can be viewed as any activity involving movement that enhances physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. As living, breathing human beings, we are able to choose to effect changes in our own biological, and mental systems through the process of physical movement. Gregory Bateson[12] once said: "In systems containing many interconnected homeostatic loops, the changes brought about by an external impact may slowly spread through the system." The human body is a complex system that functions as a whole through the homeostatic interaction of its interconnected spiritual, mental, emotional and physical parts. Hence, one part of the system cannot be changed without causing a concomitant shift in another. With this in mind, it is clear that physical activity is able to initiate positive change on all levels, particularly in relation to achieving greater physical and spiritual awareness.

At a physical level, Bateson's idea suggests that human evolution is naturally predisposed towards survival of the 'fittest' through a process of adaptation. By exercising at progressively higher intensities than is normally performed, specific physiological adaptations occur on a neurological level that will eventually impact behaviour on a psychological level. So apart from the obvious gains in fitness, such as improved muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, co-ordination and balance, gains in mental health parameters, including mood, general self-concept and confidence can be great indeed.[13]

Mind-body approaches to movement, such as yoga, and Neuromuscular Integrative Action (NIA see box below) are well placed to affect health at a much deeper level in this way while retaining all the benefits of western approaches to movement. For example, the static stance of the 'Warrior Pose' in yoga (Picture 1) retains the physical fitness components of lower body strength, core abdominal stability, muscular endurance, overall balance and flexibility. Mental focus, a sense of determination and feelings of relaxed confidence are key psychological characteristics. Similarly, the fluid, dynamic movements of NIA reflect the ebb and flow of the universal life force and the concept of giving and receiving. In learning how to pay attention to the factors within ourselves that govern the state of health we desire, it may be necessary in part to adopt the spiritual perspective of being responsible for overcoming personal and emotional obstacles to health.

Techniques that focus the mind inwards and expand our perceptions of who we are, based on spiritual philosophical thought systems that promote ultimate states of 'bliss' and 'love', have shown to be a strong predictor of a person's ability to heal themselves. Thus, the spiritual aspect of holistic exercise therapy is an important element and one that should not be overlooked. The focus of the following two sections 'Creating a pathway to health through holistic movement' and 'Creating a new awareness - spiritual practice in motion' is about personal power and choice through awareness and has been crafted in what I believe to be the same manner as Neil Donald Walsh's Conversations with God trilogy.

Creating a Pathway to Health Through Holistic Movement

Many people have noticed how much more they can be in tune with their bodies in the sight of knowing what to do. This has become known at a deep level, not just on the physical surface. What this means is that you can help yourself to know how to heal yourself when you have the means of being aware of your own body. When you notice what you can do to help yourself you can take the information and arrive at something that will be beneficial for your own development. That is to say that all you know will be improved by the action of being in the here and now. The best way to move forward on this idea is to be in tune with the rhythms of your body and take that to the way of being that enhances what you already know.

Since the beginning of time humans have learned how to use their bodies in ways that have helped them to survive. The notion being that they have the wherewithal to get the food and shelter they need for their own safekeeping. With one term after another the sentient being will have the best means of survival at their disposal at any one time. Helping yourself to notice what is being in the way of your experience is the best way to notice your own body in terms of knowing what to do in times of stress. The main factor being that it is all relevant to what is being shown to you in the realm of the here and now.

The development of the human in terms of wanting to be better at knowing what to do in times of stress is the first step towards being in control of your own well-being. Take for example the person who wants to know how to get into the realm of being that is within their own methods of maintaining their own health. What is the first thing that doesn't have the knowledge they are looking for? You will find they are the first ones to notice what is going to be effective as if they didn't already know that was going to be the case.

Creating your own way to health has been the mantra of millions of holistic health practitioners over the years. They absolutely revere in the knowledge that all is going to be well if you would just give yourself the chance to act on your own instincts. This is true because many have experienced for themselves the process of being in tune with their bodies and allowing the forces of life to do what is most natural for them to do. Listening in one sense to your own body is the key way to enhance your own well-being.

Many of your scientists have noticed the difference between what is going to happen and what is not. It's called prediction. Prediction is the realm of knowing that enhances any interventions they deem necessary for achieving the state of being referred to as health. What is more, they can begin to realise that the frame of reference for their nuances is telling them what is going to be in their experience. By this I mean that they can tell what is not going to work just by the very fact that they have noticed a change in one parameter or another. The advisory role they adopt is just a matter of them being in tune with what is the best way for them to notice what is going to be there in terms of getting the body to respond with health.

Creating a New Awareness - Spiritual Practice in Motion

1. Become aware of your own body through the action of movement in time. God willing this will be the thing that helps you to focus on what you need to pay attention to in the body for health. The one thing I want you to notice is where you can be more efficient in the way you exactly help the process of healing. One way to do this would be to focus your attention on the things that matter only in terms of what you couldn't have seen before. By this I mean that you help the process by wielding your own battle of consciousness within the realms of the body. These are to be taken seriously as they will have the effect of being at the right time in the ways that help you to notice. Be prepared for the things that come up in your experience and then try to focus on the manner in which they help you realise the truth.

2. When you have begun to realize the truth within your own psyche, you can then learn to diminish what is not going to give you the kind of being that you want to have. In terms of health this can be either good or bad as you well know, things are not forthcoming unless they are manifest in the world of being. This means that you can either choose to ignore or pay attention to what is happening now inside your own mind. That way you have the power to know what you need to do to get yourself back on track in terms of being healthy.

3. Be your own exercise instructor in that you can move with joy and purpose in ways that express who you really are. This is the key to moving with joy. Self-expression through movement will help you to begin the process of healing in time with no motive but to regain what you thought you had lost. The one thing that is important here is the way in which you realise your own substance is made of life itself. Be the one who notices what you have to offer your healing. Make sure that when you have what it takes to notice you can go into the realm of being the person that knows how to maintain health. One such person is able to monitor and track their progress from the inside out rather than the other way around. So it is with all sentient beings who have the nourishment of life coursing through their veins.

4. Take one watch per minute and you can affect your own DNA. Deepak Chopra will agree with this as he is the one who pointed out the amazing fact of learning to notice your own being in the first place.[14] He read about the fruit fly and how it can affect its own consciousness in time. He points out that it can only happen in relation to where you are in time. Many times he has yielded to the experience of knowing what to do in time and for now it is apparent that he believes himself to be knowledgeable in terms of getting the right information. The one moment in time when you should notice how you are is the one where you feel what it is like be inside your own deposition. What this means is that you can have the external references that go to make up a life and still be safe in the knowledge that you can help yourself to survive.

5. Welcome your notes and be prepared to handover what you don't need. Take one more step in time and notice what is before you. You will have the ability to notice the way in which you can be one in your own experience. This means that you can have the place of knowing in time and want for yourself the very things that go to make up a life. That's love! Love is an expression of how we are feeling in times of being at one with our own bodies.

6. Make a turn in the right direction and have the best form of communication with your own being. Inside is the key to growing your own personal health strategy. It enhances what you have already as well as being the thing that sets you free. Freedom to choose your own destiny is tied up in the realm of being that enhances the way forward. Have a look at what you know and begin to take steps towards what you know will be good for you. This makes sense because the only thing you can do is improve your being and want nothing more than what it takes to get there. If you ever want to know the truth, be the one who realises that for yourself.

7. When you have enough information the setting will show itself in the vicinity of time and space where all is not lost. Begin the journey with an open mind and hold out for a better future. In the course of time you will have the means and ability to take what you know and be one with experience.

Case Study

Sarah was a busy legal assistant for 3 lawyers in Downtown Houston. Before NIA she was perpetually suffering from throat infections, colds and feeling tired all the time. Her ‘always wanting to please manner’ also meant she accepted work when she was already stressed to the limit. After experiencing NIA twice a week for about a month, Sarah began to notice how much better she felt about herself, how much more energy she had, an overall feeling of increased vitality. She developed her ability to say No! from experiencing this word with full body and expression in her NIA class. Sarah began to find more balance in her life, work, personality and body. Sarah now feels far more confident about herself, she rarely feels ill or misses work and she has even lost weight.

Here is a recent quote from Leslie in my class…

NIA was a new process for me in my exploration of movement. A sense of heightened awareness and freedom of expression within my body were hallmarks of the experience for me.

Afterwards, I carried a sense of absolute connectedness with me into the world and I am now able to move my body in ways which I could not before. I highly recommend this technique to anyone wanting to gain fluidity and freedom within their own movement patterns.

Further Information

British Wheel of Yoga:
Yoga Therapy Centre:
Official NIA website:
Helen Terry. Executive Director of NIAmoves:

Recommended Reading

Benson H. The Relaxation Response. HarperCollins, New York. ISBN: 0-380-00676-6. 2000.
Chopra D. Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine. Bantum Books. ISBN 0-553-34869-8. 1990.
Brunton P, Dr. The Hidden Teaching Beyond Yoga. Hutchinson Group. Australia. ISBN 0-09-149991-7. 1972.
Pert CB, PhD. Molecules of Emotion. Why You Feel the Way You Feel. Pocket Books. Great Britain. ISBN 0-671-03397-2 1997.
Saraswati SA. Principles of Breathwork. Thorsons. London. ISBN 0-7225-3830-8. 1999.
Alexander FM. Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Victor Gollancz. London. ISBN 0-575-03938-8.1987.
Walsch ND. Conversations with God - Books 1,2 and 3. Hodder & Stoughton. Great Britain. ISBN 0-340-76544-5. 1999.
Foundation for Inner Peace. A Course in Miracles. Penguin Group. USA. ISBN 0-670-86975-9. 1996.


1. Buemann B and Tremblay A. Effects of Exercise Training on Abdominal Obesity and Related Metabolic Complications. Sports Medicine. 3: 191-212. 1996.
2. Harris S et al. Physical Activity Counseling for Healthy Adults as a Primary Preventative Intervention in the Clinical Setting. Report for the US Prevention Services Task Force. 261: 3590-3598. 1989.
3. Nicole A, et al. Reductions in Visceral Fat During Weight Loss and Walking are Associated with Improvements in Vo2max. Journal of Applied Physiology. 90: 99-104. 2001
4. Lynch J et al. Moderately Intense Physical Activity and High Levels of Cardiorespiratory Fitness Reduces the Risk of Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus in Middle Aged Men. Arch Intern Med. 156: 1307-14. 1996.
5. Blair SN et al. Physical Fitness and Incidence of Hypertension in Healthy Normotensive Men and Women. JAMA. 252: 487-90. 1984.
6. Drinkwater BL. CH McCloy Research Lecture: Does Physical Activity Play a Role in Preventing Osteoporosis? Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 65(3): 197-206. 1994.
7. Yeoh A. Yoga Therapy. FitPro. 8/9. February/March 2002.
8. Williams LD and Morton AR. Changes in Selected Cardiorespiratory Responses to Exercise and in Body Composition Following a 12-Week Aerobic Dance Programme. Journal of Sports Sciences. 4: 189-199. 1986.
9. Budget R. Overtraining Syndrome. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 24(4): 231-236. 1990.
10. Nehlsen-Cannarella S et al. Fighting, Fleeing and Having Fun: The Immunology of Physical Activity. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 18: S8-S21. 1997.
11. Benson H. The Relaxation Response. HarperCollins. New York. p9. ISBN: 0-380-00676-6. 2000.
12. Bateson G. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago. p447. ISBN 0-226-03905-6. 2000.
13. Weinberg RS and Gould D. Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology. Human Kinetics. Champaign. pp359-378. ISBN 0-87322-812-X. 1999.
14. Chopra D. Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind Body Medicine. Bantum Books. ISBN 0-553-34869-8. 1990.


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About Gina Pickersgill

Gina is a transpersonal coach who brings multimedia to her practice.  She created an authoritative eMagazine on NLP and Healing, based on The Healing Pool, a virtual sanctuary she owns in Second Life as her avatar 'Nina Lancaster'.

An NLP Master Practitioner and Certified Society of NLP Trainer, Gina assisted co-creator of NLP Richard Bandler on their London NLP, seminars from 2001-5.  Originally training as a fitness instructor specializing in fitness for the fuller figure, she gained a degree in Sports and Exercise Studies in 1999 and introduced the concept of Lifestyle Coaching to Virgin Active Health Clubs. She is a published holistic article writer and regular contributor to NLPLife Training Newsletter. Gina is now focused on working towards a new paradigm of delivering NLP training to a virtual world audience via various forms of multimedia platforms in partnership with sponsors and organizations.

Gina is passionate about raising awareness of virtual worlds, their potential for training change and personal development, where they will have the best benefit to a global audience, as well as to those who need more traditional methods of learning such as books, CDs, audio and one to one coaching.

Gina may be contacted via Tel: 07932 958 262;  Havening Techniques

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