Flexibility and Control

My Pilates instructor shared an interesting video with me after attending the recent Atlanta MANIA fitness tradeshow. The video featured Chuck Wolf, M.S., an exercise physiologist who developed an interesting fitness training modality called “Flexibility Highways,” who expanded on the basic point that: “Mobilizing muscles and joints without incorporating a stabilizing movement pattern can actually increase the client’s risk of injury.” Take a moment to reread the last sentence. It’s an important point!

Increasing flexibility without increasing control is risky business.

This principle works well in this setting, but does it hold true in other phases of life? I believe so. Yesterday we considered what it takes to “step it up a notch” in your personal expression. I have found that stepping up my game requires that I first relax more deeply in relation to some point around which I have held unnecessary tension. That relaxation – physically, mentally or emotionally – allows the life force to course more freely through body, mind and heart, providing a natural source of strength and inspiration to overcome previous limitations.

New capability without new control is dangerous.

Think of this in relation to children who are allowed to go on the internet for the first time. At first the control must be provided externally, by a parent or limited access restrictions on the search engine, but it makes sense to ease those external controls over time as the internal control builds in the maturing child. If you were to give a child free access to the internet without such controls, the results could be disastrous.

Whenever you mobilize new capability, pay attention to the corresponding stabilizing movement. There will always be one.

In business terms, this would relate to the corresponding strengthening of infrastructure that must accompany a growth in sales. Many wonderful companies with excellent products or services go out of business because of a failure on this point. Their growth outpaces their infrastructure and the company implodes or the infrastructural development outpaces the growth and the company starves to death. Either is an ugly and inglorious ending. Both are generally avoidable if care is taken to add a dash of stabilization whenever a pinch of expansion is experienced.

Principles such as these abound in life and the nice thing is that one principle properly understood can be applied in millions of different ways. What you learn, experience and know in one area of your life can be tremendously useful in other areas of your life when you learn to connect the dots. It’s not that hard, really.

Go ahead, give it a try!

8 thoughts on “Flexibility and Control

  1. Eli

    Thanks for this perspective and its application. Here might be an limited example of this in an recent experience I had.

    I was watching and talking to a person train a dog to ultimately be let off lead. She explained that the dog has had very limited off leash experience and is an “inside” dog.

    She soundly felt, her and the dog’s relationship were maturing to a point where the dog could be trusted off lead and would respond to her commands at some point in the near future.

    One of the steps in the processes she explained is to have a safe environment. For example, an area which would limit how far the dog might “bolt”, limited distraction to the dog’s focus (squirrel chaces)and to have a long lead on the dog to keep or gain control of the dog if it might find itself in danger or distracted. With the long lead the dog would feel free yet there would still be a control and boundary’s for the dogs safety.

    This could be another illustration or example of the principles you were outlining in your post.


  2. Joshua

    Greatly appreciate your making clear the need to “relax more deeply” in an area where there was tension, or restricted movement. I have found in my life that the greatest accomplishments have come on the heels of a pattern of deep and abiding relaxation, allowing the action which needed to take place to simply flow freely into expression, and when one looks back (briefly) one could say….wow that was easy…..why all the struggle?
    We give energy and control over to that which we struggle with.
    HUGE point, easier said than done at times I know, yet your reminder of this will prove to provide a great “Refer to point” in the days to come, with that, which I struggle with most…….Thanks Gregg!


  3. Colin

    This is such a common sense idea, that you’d think it would be more common! Yet how often do you see the damage where this principle has been ignored? I think one of the reasons that this is not done more often is simple laziness. It takes work to increase control when you increase flexibility, physically or otherwise. Take the example you used of the child. Before they have their adult maturity, they will do everything they can to get around your restrictions, and as a parent you have to be vigilant. Some things you knowingly let slide, pretending you didn’t notice, when really it is just allowing them further growth. In other areas you have to draw the line. This all takes work, and this is the reason that so many parents drop their kids off at the TV all day.
    It is always nice to be able to visit these ideas in a larger way, because they will almost always have applications that have been overlooked. Thanks!


  4. T

    Great words of advice! There is much to learn from our activities of day to day life if we are conscious enough to look for the principles within. Your flying analogies, sailing, Horseback riding, team sports and marshal arts are also filled with nuggets of gold. The Pilates principle you outlined is priceless and very true on all levels. Thank you for your tip and perspective on the “how” to apply this to circumstances as that is where I think there is often a disconnect from the realization to the practical application. Let’s see what today holds!


  5. Ricardo B.

    I agree. To live by principle allows you to live an orderly, integrated life. We all have our personal lives in our homes and we have our social lives at our jobs or at school. There should naturally exist a nice balance between the two along with one code of conduct. A lack of principle in your life can make the different aspects seem confusing and chaotic, where in fact the dots are connected.
    Control and flexibilty can be seen to be the self-limiting steps in anything we wish to undertake successfully. Too much of one and not enough of the other we either become paralyzed in action, or we stress the limits beyond the breaking point. The sweet spot exists in the perfect balance between the two. Nothing nicer in life where serving up an ace is an almost effortless stroke!


  6. Coco

    Your examples of this principle are very helpful. The laws of creation are sound and as I read them they don’t seem complex. The wild card of reaction is the point that seems to add the complexity. This can be lethargy or over compensation, due to fear, arrogance or any attitude that literally puts us off our game. Balanced progress is a beautiful occurrence.


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