Imagine being able to stand, sit and move in such a way that you are always at ease, your twinges of back pain are gone, your energy is high and you protect yourself from injury. Imagine being able to take that ability into all areas of your life, whether sitting at the computer, standing in line at the bank or playing golf, tennis or any other sport. The key to achieving this enviable state is learning how to position your body so that it is totally relaxed, to find the place where it experiences no resistance or tension. The question, of course, is how to find that place… and the answer may be a system called Optimotion.
Optimotion is the brainchild of Jeffrey Zimmerman, OMD, once a classical musician and now a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, acupuncturist and Qigong master in Westport, Connecticut. I spoke with Dr. Zimmerman about Optimotion and he told me he had developed it over many years, starting when he first learned about the phenomenon of synchronization — how various networks, whether symphony orchestras or those in the human body, naturally synchronize in such a way that they work perfectly together. This led him to study how synchronization might help people discover the best way to use their bodies.
His idea was to help locate the place of having no muscle tension — which is how martial arts masters move so fluidly — where the blood can flow easily and energy is released most efficiently. When your body is synchronized and in its optimal position, there are no impediments to deploying your power to your maximum potential. By helping people use movement to locate their body’s natural optimal state, Dr. Zimmerman has helped athletes perform better and ordinary people live pain-free. Once the body knows its natural state, it is relaxed, enabling you to focus all energy on the task at hand. In Optimotion, motion is not vigorous and is often as scant as a fraction of an inch — it is a tiny amount that with practice produces a large impact.
You can begin learning the principles of Optimotion at your desk, sitting in front of your computer or at your kitchen table. To start: Observe how you are holding yourself at this moment. Are you in a typical position, hunched over, shoulders tense and leaning toward the computer screen? Now think about how to readjust your body — your goal is to create fluidity and freedom of movement through alignment from the base of your spine to the top of your head. In this position, your shoulders are slightly back, the lower back is slightly curved out. The “there” spot is when the body relaxes. Freedom of tension is the sensation. Once you have found it, note how good it feels, how “just right” it is. Take a few moments to enjoy this feeling.
Once you have found this point of no resistance, it is time to add deep observation/awareness to your breathing. Relax and inhale fully, paying attention to how your body shifts… your rear goes back ever so slightly, your chin rises and your shoulder blades move toward each other. Exhale and observe how your body reverses these small changes. Use your breathing to practice this slight motion, focusing on how it continuously guides you back to the “just right” place. The last step: To optimize your sitting motion, consciously lean forward to the point you lose your feeling of fluidity. Exactly at this place, stop. Your goal is to re-educate your body and brain to have freedom of movement. As soon as you go beyond that place of fluidity and create tension, you are wasting energy by sending the wrong signals to the body. (It will likely be no more than an inch or so, if that.) Reverse your motion to reclaim your alignment/fluidity, base of spine to top of skull — and then go back beyond that point and stop, returning once again to alignment. Practicing this back-and-forth motion will soon train your body to move instinctively into its place of alignment through fluidity and complete relaxation. Ideally, the body would be moving through this feeling 24 hours a day… biologically, it is always seeking to be in this place. Throughout the day remind yourself that the fluid softness is the key. The benefits are that you are in complete control of educating your body to always be fluid and centered, so you have a clearer mind and are better able to enjoy your everyday activities.
To find your ideal place while standing, the same basic Optimotion rules apply. However, this time your best alignment is based on picturing a plumb line that goes from your body into the ground beneath you. Start with feet shoulder distance apart, knees slightly bent, and find the place where you’re neither leaning forward nor backward, but just perfectly balanced, with head directly over your feet. Having found that place, shift your weight forward toward your toes until your body tightens… now shift back toward your heels until the same thing happens. You will quickly see that the position of relaxation or, what Dr. Zimmerman terms “the place of no resistance,” is somewhere in the middle of that back-and-forth motion. Over time and with practice, says Dr. Zimmerman, you will begin to see what in your body is causing tension. Often it is the site of an old injury. As you continue to re-educate your body, the problem area will begin to correct itself. “It will come into alignment with the rest of the body because that is where it naturally wants to be,” he says. Practice anywhere — including standing in line at the grocery store. The idea is to get the body to always desire the path of least resistance.
Learning basic Optimotion principles is not difficult, but it takes practice — try to do so once or twice a day for several minutes. Here are Dr. Zimmerman’s guidelines…
You can practice this any time you take a break in your day. Just 30 seconds of movement will lead you to alignment. Over time this will become your natural optimal default position. Once you begin to automatically sit and stand this way, begin to bring this position to every movement you do. You’ll find that it enhances all activities, including workouts and sports. For example, Dr. Zimmerman says that clients have shown him they can lift 30% more weight simply by finding the optimal relaxed place as they lift. “People tend to lean back on their heels while lifting, and so miseducate the body every time they lift,” he explains. Simply shifting your weight toward your toes until you are relaxed and aligned will put you in the ideal place… freeing your energy to lift more weight, swing the golf club better or simply do the dishes with no back pain. And even when you are not active, taking a moment to realign to your optimal position provides a quick and easy way to calm down both physically and spiritually.