My session with Gillian Hipp
One of the fundamental elements in the work I do is working with the mind-body. It’s not just trying to think your way out of something, but rather accessing the subconscious because it is far more powerful. Yet despite engaging the body, when I work with clients, we’re mostly sitting down.
I recently had a session with a woman named Gillian Hipp. She’s a somatic coach and movement therapist who also helps people in the workplace with releasing stress and getting into a flow state for higher performance. At the time of writing this (September 2021), she is researching well-being in sedentary workplaces for her PhD (how cool is that!)
Her work is about moving the body, getting out of your chair etc to create these changes. I learned some really amazing things during my session with her that I wanted to share here. Keep in mind that her work is about embodiment (which makes it particularly challenging to convey in words), and I had 1 hour with her (so this is just a snapshot of the main takeaways I had):
One of the main principles
How we move affects how we think. Throughout my session with Gillian she would watch me move and was consistently able to predict patterns in how I thought and acted based on the natural way that I moved. This is a bit like a much more sophisticated version of judging a person's character based on how they walk into a room. This is possible because our brain and body are part of the same system, you can’t separate them.
Where this gets really interesting is that by changing how you move, you can change how you think and act.
Here’s an example to illustrate this point:
My natural movement patterns tend to be light, free-flowing and done with a level of intensity that’s sustainable (as opposed to movements that might be more commonly seen in a big boxer or a 100 meter runner). This movement preference mirrors how I tend to think and work. That is, I tend not to make big fast decisions. Rather, I take my time, I sleep on things, because when I don’t I often make poor choices
So what she had me do was to find movements that were the opposite of what I normally do, that also felt right to me. That is, movements that were strong and fast. Seeing as the mind and body are one, if I practice these movements, I’m also affecting my brain and how I think. This will then allow me to think in strong and fast ways when it is called for.
For example, doing fast and strong punches in the air, seems to wire your brain to then be able to make fast, punchy decisions.
Regularly moving in a variety of different ways primes your brain (or more accurately, you’re whole being) to be able to think in a variety of ways. This gives you dexterity, flexibility and freedom. It gives you a practice that is very doable that allows you to not only take care of your body, but by doing so, to also liberate your mind.
If you know how to move in different ways, then when emotions come up you don’t feel so powerless, you have an embodied understanding that emotions can move through you. You don’t have to get stuck with it forever (as we so often do).
So, if you have something that is challenging to you, what you can do is to think of what that challenge requires of you. For example, do you need to learn to be more direct? To be more compassionate? To be more flexible? To be better able to hold your ground? To think outside the box? To have more sustained energy? etc
Then see if you can find a movement that mirrors what is required of you (that also feels right to you).
If you need to take your time when speaking with people instead of rushing through things, practice slow movements and take your time.
If you feel your head is always up in the clouds, find a movement that is grounded and strong.
If you are consistently indirect in how you talk to people and you realise you just need to say what’s on your mind or point out a problem in a clear and concise way, practice direct movements (like punches).
If you always push too hard and end up burning out, practice more sustained movements and listen to your body, letting it lead rather than forcing your will over it.
If you can’t solve a problem, get up, move your body in different ways, be flexible. That will prime your brain to think in different ways and be flexible in problem solving.
Movement can also be used to get into altered states of consciousness. Think of cultures where there were shamans and people would dance around a fire and get into a trance or access something deeper than the 3D reality that we see all around us.
Fundamentally though, this is about just moving. Because if you don’t move, you are more likely to get aches and pains, to feel lethargic yet at the same time have trouble sleeping, to get irritated because being still is so unnatural, and it can make you feel disconnected from yourself and others.
What is particularly useful about Gillian’s approach is that you don’t need to be in special yoga pants to do this, which makes it particularly useful for the workspace. And with so many people doing work remotely, this is something you can do without worrying about people judging you for moving in weird ways, because there’s no-one around. You can just turn your camera off and go for it.
While I did not get a chance to explore this during my session, movement can also be used to release trauma and deep seated stress that you may not even be conscious of.
If you would like to find out more about Gillian Hipp, you can find here website here: