It’s no secret that technology is changing our bodies and brains. If you were born before the 1970s and can remember a time when you didn’t have a smart phone, laptop, tablet, or flat screen as part of your daily routine, you have probably already sensed these changes in yourself and seen them in those around you. There have been profound changes in the way we live and communicate. Technology and convenience have changed everything: how we socialize, how we process information, how we feel, how we eat, how we sleep, and how we see the world.
The inherent imbalance in activity for the modern human is that while we are moving our bodies less, our minds are taking in more information than ever. Take a moment to consider the implications of that statement. The body and brain are good at adapting and sorting, but what have we lost during this particular evolution? Although many scientists, anthropologists, doctors, physical therapists, educators, nutritionists, yoga therapists, and other smart people are asking this question and even creating solutions, it might take time before we completely comprehend what the impact of living in the technological age means for modern human beings, along with our continued evolution.
One of the most common challenges for the modern human is remaining connected to the body and its processes. Being out of touch with the body results in a decreased ability to execute basic healthy movement patterns. The simple acts of squatting, crawling, rolling, rotating, bending, kneeling, balancing, standing, and walking on varied surfaces have tremendous value for all of the systems of the body. Conscious movement can affect more aspects of our health than we previously thought possible—muscles, bones, organs, glands, and nerves can be positively affected—all the way down to a cellular level by turning on or off certain patterns of longevity. It’s not just the amount of sitting that affects our lives (which is a lot), but also the lack of variety in our daily movements compared to that of our ancestors. That lack of variety is changing our brains, altering our body composition, impeding developmental patterns, and shortening life spans.
Active people who do yoga and exercise regularly are still at risk for this diminished capacity. Going to the gym, playing a sport, hiking, or hitting a yoga class a couple of times a week won’t undo the damage that 40 to 60 hours per week of sitting might cause. Couple that with the fact that many people are out of touch with their bodies as they perform repetitive exercises, and we have a recipe for loss of function and injury. The “no pain, no gain” mentality that is so prevalent in modern exercise culture doesn’t help either. It is likely that many people who exercise are duplicating their inefficient or unrefined movement patterns of daily life in their exercise sessions, only faster and with more vigor.
Although many of the movements that are included in this article and the others could be considered exercise, we suggest that you think of them more as daily actions to challenge your nervous system and give your body and brain new forms of input. Small actions performed with awareness throughout the day can effect big changes in the body and mind.