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The other day in my Awareness Through Movement® class, I saw that some people were having difficulty with a particular movement. “Don’t strain,” I suggested.  “Instead, take a moment and imagine the movement.”  One of the students started laughing. “I can’t even imagine doing it” she said. So we broke the action down to something that could be imagined, and by the end of the class, she was doing what she had originally imagined was impossible.

Three groups of athletes recently participated in a study conducted at Bishop’s University in Quebec. One group practiced hip flexion exercises using a weight machine for building muscle mass.  A second group imagined doing the exercise. And a third group did nothing. After two weeks, the actual exercisers saw strength gains of 28%. The imaginers saw gains of 24%. And of course, the control group gained nothing. Imagine that!

There’s a big difference between this active use of imagination vs. idle day dreaming. I can imagine how nice it would be to have a new car, a new love, be thin, rich or even happy. But without the clarity and specificity of an intention, nothing is going to happen. When athletes use their imagination, they don’t just focus on the feeling of success (although that is certainly part of it). They imagine doing the actual moves.

As the holidays approach, why not prepare for how you will carry yourself at that office party, or how calm you will be at the family gathering by imagining your actions in advance? How will you breathe? Can your shoulders remain relaxed?  If not, imagine raising and then lowering them to that they find their easy resting place. Imagine not gripping in your low back or your butt as you talk to a difficult co-worker or family member. Stay connected to your easy breathing as your grandchildren come charging in the door. Imagine bending your knees to support your back as you hug them. (By the way, this is a wonderful way to pass the time in the plane or the airport if you are traveling this season.)

You may discover that things don’t always turn out how you imagined them. But you can be certain that your responses to whatever comes your way will be more functional. Have a stress free holiday!