WHAT THE HECK IS A KINESIOLOGIST?
This past year, I fulfilled a goal that was nearly a decade in the making. I became a Registered Kinesiologist. And as thrilled as I was to have finally climbed that mountain when I arrived at the summit, I was often greeted with “Congratulations … what’s a kinesiologist?”
Since kinesiology is a relatively new profession here in Canada you might be unclear about what a kinesiologist is/does. No worries, I’m here to explain.
What is Kinesiology?
Put simply; it's the scientific study of human movement. The term comes from the Greek word kinesis, which means ‘to move.’
I actually had no idea what kinesiology was either - until after I became a yoga teacher. A foundational yoga teacher training gives you the skills to teach classes for people that are generally healthy, but the students that were actually showing up for my yoga classes had all kinds of health conditions I didn’t understand: heart conditions, cystic fibrosis, spinal stenosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, and cancer. The first rule of yoga is ‘DO NO HARM,’ and I knew that I didn’t know enough about the health conditions I was seeing to know whether I was helping or harming. My lack of knowledge about how to work skillfully with these clients scared me. I found myself looking for continuing education that would help me understand the human body better, and that’s when I stumbled into a conscious movement practice called Yoga Tune Up®.
Yoga Tune Up® is a movement style grounded in anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. This is where I first learned that kinesiology was ‘a thing.’ I was instantly bit by the learning bug. In 2015, I returned to high school to get the math and science pre-requisites I needed that I didn’t get the first time I did high school. My younger self was sure I wouldn't ever need that. Oh, youth!
What’s a Kinesiologist?
A kinesiologist is an expert in human movement and all its many components. Studying to become a kinesiologist involves intensive university training to learn about human movement from different perspectives:
In my schooling, I focused on exercise for older adults. I got loads of hands-on experience training clients at Brock University’s Wellness & Research Centre’s Senior Fit Program - a gym dedicated to folks over the age of 55. In addition, I did a couple of independent studies with older adults. In one, I designed an exercise prescription for a gentleman with Parkinson’s disease. In another, I developed a group exercise program for folks with Osteoporosis.
Studying to become a Kinesiologist is a body nerd’s delight. I loved it - except for physics. Physics was excruciating (but totally necessary).
In Ontario, a ‘Kinesiologist’ or ‘Registered Kinesiologist’ is a protected title, meaning you have to have the credentials and be registered with the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario before you can hang the shingle outside your door.
What does a Kinesiologist do?
A kinesiologist prescribes movement to prevent, manage and rehabilitate injuries, to improve athletic performance or to support the treatment of illness and chronic disease. We can do this for anyone of any age or ability level that wants a hands-on, personalized approach to enhance their health and well-being through movement. Simply put:
A KINESIOLOGIST IS A HUMAN MOVEMENT SPECIALIST THAT USES SCIENCE AND RESEARCH TO PRESCRIBE MOVEMENT AS MEDICINE.
What kinds of health conditions can you prescribe exercise for?
Exercise can be very helpful in the prevention of injury and chronic disease. Movement gives you energy, decreases stress (the leading cause of disease), makes you stronger, and prolongs your independence as you age.
2 out of 3 Ontario residents have at least one chronic condition, including physical and mental health issues. Canada's Public Health Agency has found that physical activity reduces the risk of over 25 common chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and some mental health conditions.
The improvements that can be made with an exercise intervention are, in some cases, astonishing.
Different kinds of exercise alter biochemistry in different ways. For example, resistance training shifts biochemistry to signal bone and muscle growth. In adults with non-severe depression, exercise has been shown to be just as effective as pharmaceutical drugs in reducing depressive symptoms.
As experts in human movement and exercise science, Kinesiologists help people develop, improve and sustain healthy exercise and physical activity habits to prevent chronic disease. They apply movement and exercise science principles to help clients manage chronic conditions through education, physical activity, and exercise-based strategies.
It’s not uncommon for people to have overlapping health conditions. And it’s easy to become confused about which exercise advice to follow. For example, the exercise guidelines you might read online for osteoarthritis may contradict the advice given for osteoporosis. Figuring out which exercises are helpful/harmful can become quite confusing if you have both conditions. A kinesiologist provides special guidance, customization, and coaching that helps you clarify conflicting/confusing information regarding your health and wellness. They tailor exercise programming specifically for your needs.
Exercise is fundamental to your physical and mental health. Kinesiologists are the recognized experts in exercise as a form of healthcare.
Where do kinesiologists work?
Kinesiologists complement other healthcare professionals. They can set up a private practice doing high-performance coaching or personal training, but they also work in hospitals, rehab clinics, gyms, and yoga and pilates studios. You can also find them working in ergonomics, public health promotion or in case management for insurance companies.
Kinesiology is a relatively new profession, and with an aging population, it’s rapidly evolving. It’s incredibly exciting to be on the crest of this new wave in healthcare: movement medicine.
The practice of kinesiology varies from one province to another in Canada. In Ontario, kinesiologists are government-regulated health professionals. If you wish to work with a kinesiologist to improve your health, it may be covered by your extended benefits. In recognition of the important role that movement plays in your overall health and as an incentive to keep moving, you can write-off your kinesiology expenses on your income taxes. Bonus!!
Want to start moving?
Guess what? You ARE already a mover. Whether you think you are or not.
We’re all engaged in some form of movement all of the time. It’s a huge part of what it means to be human. (See my August/22 blog)
As my favourite biomechanist/writer Katy Bowman says, ‘Every moment is movement.’ Think about it; you’re always making some kind of shape with your body. There is never a moment of the day when you’re shapeless. But, you can overdose on certain movements (like sitting) and underdose on others (like resistance or cardiovascular training). You can also overdose on movement and underdose on rest. Rest is as vital to our mental and physical health as movement is. It’s all a balancing act.
How a Kinesiologist can help you
I love this aspect of kinesiology because it empowers YOU to take your health and well-being into your own hands - and that’s its own powerful medicine!
For more information:
Visit: Canada’s 24-hour movement guidelines
Take the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire. Determine if you’re ready to begin an exercise program now or if you should seek advice from your doctor before becoming more physically active.
Find a Registered Kinesiologist in Ontario or drop me a line.
The dark days of winter are here. You probably noticed.
In the midst of darkness, we need reminders of the light. Perhaps that’s why so many of the world’s religions have a celebration of light scheduled in the darkness of winter: Diwali, Christmas, Winter Solstice, and Hanukkah spring to mind. Perhaps you can think of others?
Themes of light and luminosity are sprinkled throughout the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (the book that lays out the classical path of yoga practice). The Sutras define yoga as ‘the stilling of the mind’s fluctuations’ and remind us that when we bring the mind to stillness, our true self can ‘shine forth,’ transparent and luminous. When our inner light is revealed, we become a source of warmth and comfort for ourselves and others. But how do we still our minds so that our true self can shine? Patanjali suggests
“….focusing on the light within which is free from all suffering and sorrow.” Sutra 1.36
Screeech. Stop the bus. That’s an actual place? Free from suffering and sorrow? And it’s inside me?
The ancient mystic yogis would say, “Yep, it sure is.” They believed that there is a divine light of awareness seated in each of our hearts. This inner light radiates love and compassion, it illuminates the truth, and it connects us to one another. And the bonus — it’s always there — constant and unwavering, like the light of the sun. Yet, we can get so caught up in the drama of everyday life we fail to remember it’s shining there.
Here are 5 practices to help you still the mind’s fluctuations (vrittis) so you can reconnect with your most radiant self and get your inner glow on.
1. SET AN INTENTION – Remember your why!
Quick refresher: What is the purpose of yoga? The purpose of yoga is to still the mind’s vrittis so your true self can shine through. How can you do this? Set an intention to re-connect with your inner light, and repeat positive, light-affirming phrases that will guide you to stillness.
Be of service.
Share my gifts and talents with the world.
Let my inner light shine – for the benefit of everyone.
Repeat these phrases often — upon waking, before bed and anytime you feel unsure of yourself. Write these phrases on a sticky note and place one on your mirror, your laptop, the fridge, heck, anywhere —to remind yourself of your unique talents and innate goodness at every opportunity. Then shine them all over everyone. Completely indiscriminately. Like the rays of the sun that shine down on everyone.
An alternate practice: play the song 'This Little Light of Mine' (below). And sing it like you mean it!
This is your why!
2. SAYING NAMASTE
In modern India, ‘namaste’ is commonly said as an everyday ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ Here in the west, you’re likely to hear it at the end of a yoga class. But it means more than Class is over. You can pack up and go home now. ‘Namaste’ literally means ‘I bow to you.’
The ancient mystic yogis believed that there’s divinity in everyone and everything. When you say ‘namaste’ to someone in the context of a yoga class, it’s more than a casual greeting/parting. It means you recognize and honour the light of divinity in their hearts. It’s the same spark of divinity that resides in your heart. When you say ‘namaste,’ think of it as a practice in acknowledging that deep down, we’re all the same. ‘Namaste’ encourages us to look past superficial differences and connect with our universal heart. We ALL share the inner light of divine awareness. When we remember that, it guides us to act towards others with compassion and kindness, however different we may seem on the surface.
Using Sanskrit terms is also a way to connect with, acknowledge and show reverence for yoga’s roots
In Sanskrit, mudra means ‘sign’ or ‘seal. A hand mudra is a gesture used in yoga and meditation meant to illicit a particular state of being (seal) or to symbolize a particular meaning (sign). It deepens one’s practice.
In Anjali Mudra, the hands press together, fingers touching and pointed up, with the thumbs at the heart centre. It’s a symbolic representation of our interconnectedness and an acknowledgment that we see the divine light in one another.
Anjali mudra is also used throughout a yoga class — at the start of each Sun Salutation and in poses like Tree and Prayer Lunge Twist — bringing the heart centre into the practice.
In the yogic view of the body, the spiritual heart center is hidden deep inside the chest in a space known as the cave of the heart. Anjali mudra nourishes this awareness, gently encouraging you to contemplate your inner light and bask in the radiant glow of your heart.
4. CONTEMPLATE YOUR CONNECTION WITH OTHERS.
We may disagree with each other — we all know discussing religion or politics at the dinner table is risky business. Those conversations are loaded with the potential to create lots of friction and highlight our differences. But, even when our loved ones tell us about their bizarre food choices (Keto, Vegetarian, Meat Eater, or pineapple on pizza), it’s good practice to remember that in our hearts, we all essentially want the same things. We want to be happy, to be healthy, to feel loved, and to feel safe.
One of my favourite practices for acknowledging this simple truth is the ‘Just Like Me’ compassion practice. You can do it as a formal seated meditation, but it’s also the perfect thing to do when you’re right in the moment with someone that’s irritating you. Say, when you’re grocery shopping, and the cart in front of you has twenty items for the express check-out, or honestly, I’m just trying to merge on the highway, repeating ‘Just Like Me’ is a total game-changer! This practice reminds you to look beneath the superficial layer of the difficulty you’re having with someone and to see that we are the same in our hearts.
Mirabai Bush and Ram Dass include the ‘Just Like Me’ meditation in their book, Walking Each Other Home
Let’s take a moment. Pull up a seat, get comfortable, bring a difficult person (or any person) to mind, and let’s begin. As you hold this person in your thoughts, mentally say:
This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me.
This person has experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me.
This person has at some time been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me.
This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me.
This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me.
This person will die, just like me.
This person has longed for friendship, just like me.
This person is learning about life, just like me.
This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me.
This person wants to be content with what life has given them, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.
This person wishes to be loved, just like me.
Now, allow wishes for well-being to arise:
I wish this person to have the strength, resources, and social support they need to navigate the difficulties in life with ease.
I wish this person to be free from pain and suffering.
I wish this person to be peaceful and happy.
I wish this person to be loved . . . because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
Click here for a guided audio version of this practice.
The Yoga Sutras tell us that the root cause of human suffering is feeling ‘separate’ or disconnected. So, it’s not surprising that many of yoga’s practices, designed to help us quiet our minds and uncover our light, also invite us to sense our heart’s connection to others. We are connecting to the glow, the light, the source, the unity of humanity and beyond.
5. CHANT ‘AUM’
The sacred syllable ‘AUM’ represents the sound of everything in the universe vibrating together as one. It’s an audible reminder that everything is connected and that divinity is everywhere – even inside you. Yoga Sutras 1.28 & 1.29 tell us that “when expressed with great devotion, the sacred sound reveals our Divine nature” and that “with faithful repetition, the inner light luminously shines.”
If the sound ‘AUM’ doesn’t resonate with you, chant Shalom or Amen or Salaam or Amin or Omkar or... Do you know what all of these sacred sounds have in common? They contain the root sound ‘AUM.’ Coincidence? I think not.
Here’s how to get your chanting practice off the ground:
· Sit comfortably
· Choose a sacred sound, one that fills your heart with love.
· Chant it out loud
· After chanting awhile, repeat the sound in silence. Let the sentiment come straight from your heart. Tune into the feeling of your heart beating. Allow yourself to feel the sound’s vibration moving in and out of your heart centre with each pulsation. Connect your heart’s vibration with the universal vibration.
· Bask in the afterglow.
Here’s an ‘AUM, Shalom, Amen’ chant to inspire feelings of love & connection with others.
MAKE TIME TO REMEMBER YOUR BLISSFUL INNER LIGHT.
It’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays – to get so stressed and distracted that we forget to carve out time to connect with our inner light - and the light in others. Remember, to take some time each day to quiet your mind, drop into your body, and re-connect with the innate wisdom and goodness in your heart. To clear away the stressors and distractions so that your inner light is revealed.
It’s 2022, and people are stressed and anxious. After a recent yoga class, some students mentioned how much they appreciated the opportunity to practice presence for 60-minutes and take a break from worrying. I won’t bother reiterating the list of troubling current events. If you’ve read the news, seen the weather reports or paid for groceries lately, you know what I’m talking about.
There’s a saying, ‘anxiety lives in the future, and depression lives in the past.’ I’m not a psychologist, but this makes a lot of sense on an intuitive level. Unproductive worrying about the future or ruminating on the past steals our ability to fully inhabit and enjoy our lives in the here and now. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t think about your past and future. By all means, DO your estate planning, plot to save the planet and go to therapy to process your traumas, but peace cannot be found through worry and rumination.
If peace is to be found anywhere, it’s in the moment you are living NOW.
According to a 2010 Harvard Study, we spend almost half our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing. That’s half the day spent with your mind and body doing different things! And participants reported less happiness when their minds and bodies weren’t aligned with the same task.
People that live in the present tend to be happier and more relaxed. It’s not a stretch to understand why. The ability to let go of heavy overthinking is a gift! Being in the here and now puts us in touch with the wonderful human qualities of openness, creativity, playfulness and positivity.
Don’t get this twisted, though. It’s perfectly natural and healthy for your mind to wander. The key is to be able to be present when your presence matters. And to ensure that you’re not living life absorbed in an imaginary alternative timeline that doesn’t exist. Here are five time-tested techniques for gifting yourself the presence of ‘here and now.’
1) Set an Intention
An intention is a force – like a magnet – that pulls your attention towards wherever you directed it. Set an intention to focus your attention, time and energy on what is happening NOW and you will be more present in the NOW.
Your presence is a powerful force! Your happiness and your ability to create change in the world only exist in the NOW. So, set an intention to stay present. Take any one of these statements (intentions) for a test drive for the day and see how it feels:
“I am here in the present moment. All that exists is now”
“My power to affect change is in the present.”
“My presence is powerful.”
Repeat it to yourself often to focus your attention, time and energy on what is happening in your NOW.
2) Integrate Your Body and Mind
On the most basic level, being present means your mind and body are aligned and oriented around the same task — without distraction, without wanting to be somewhere else, without being ‘in your head’ as you have an ‘out of body’ experience. Have you ever driven to a familiar destination and not remembered any of the journey? That’s an ‘out of body’ experience!
Think of your mind like an untamed puppy. Puppies are famous for getting into mischief. They’ll chew up your furniture or get into the garbage and drag it across the floor if you leave them unattended. Yet, if you give that puppy a bone it will sit quietly and chew. You can align your mind and body by using a mantra. It’s like giving your mind a bone to chew – so IT doesn’t start dragging out the garbage of your past or imagined future.
Try the mantra ‘Just this.’
Anytime you need to bring your mind back into your body and into the present, say ‘Just this… Just this breath… Just this feeling of my feet on the ground … Just this feeling of sunlight on my skin … Just this…
Just try it. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what it does for your mood.
3) Tune Into Your Senses
Another way to reel your awareness back into your body is with this quick mindfulness trick, known as the 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique. Sit quietly. Tune into your surroundings and notice:
This exercise helps to bring your awareness into THE NOW
4) Tune Into Your Breath
Follow your breath .This is a basic mindfulness meditation practice that settles your body and mind. Your breath acts like an anchor that keeps your awareness tied to the present moment. Your breath is always with you and it’s always happening, so you can tune into it anywhere, anytime you notice your mind wandering away from the NOW. When your mind wanders and internal chatter begins, return to your breath. This trains you to steer and re-focus your attention and calm your thoughts.
Here’s how to come back to the present when you get lost in thought:
1. Feel your breath moving in & out of your nose and your belly rising & falling.
2. Follow the full cycle of each breath: inhale, pause, exhale, pause.
3. Recognize when your mind wanders, and gently nudge your attention back to your breath.
4. Use the phrase “breathing in, aware that I am breathing in; breathing out, aware that I am breathing out” to help yourself stay focused.
5. Tune Into Sensations
Try a Body Scan. Body Scanning invites you to notice how your body is feeling from head to toe — and to adopt an open, welcoming attitude toward every ache, pain, or sensation you might be feeling. When you breathe into these senses, you are learning to sit in the present moment and pay attention to all the physical and emotional feelings that come to light. You’re not trying to change anything; you’re honing your ability to accept and be with things as they are — which is the first step in becoming present.
This teaches us to sit with our feelings — comfortable and uncomfortable. Over time, this helps us to work through all kinds of emotions and circumstances in everyday life. You expand your capacity to be with uncomfortable situations and even find a sense of ease in those moments.
Stay Happy in the Now
When your mind drifts unproductively into the future (worry), into the past (rumination), or into fantasy, you can always re-direct your attention to the here and now. You’re practicing presence when you:
· Tune into your senses and feel what is happening in your body right now.
· Notice your reactions, thoughts, ideas, feelings, and emotions without being harsh and judgmental.
· Concentrate on a present-moment experience such as your breath, bodily sensations, or listening to the birds sing.
Presence is a gift you give yourself and others. When you’re present, you’re the most potent version of you. You’re engaged with life; you’re happier; you expand your ability to listen; you open up to your creativity and playfulness and are able to fully spend quality time with others.
All these practices are great ways to spend time in the here and now.
1. Matthew A. Killingsworth, Daniel T. Gilbert. A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind. Science, 2010; 330 (6006): 932 DOI: 10.1126/science.1192439
Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions