Our clients expect us to help them achieve optimal health and well being. They demand to grow younger, stronger and to have more energy and vitality. In delivering their wishes, we have evolved our methodologies over the years from utilizing fixed single plane machines, steady state cardiovascular activities and food pyramids to using multi-planar functional resistance movements, mobilization techniques and organic foods. So we read books, journal articles, attend lectures and seminars on creating better and healthier bodies. We study, we learn and adapt, all the while focusing on delivering better and better techniques to improve the physical body. While significant progress has certainly been made in understanding how to best create the conditions for ultimate health in the physical body, we need to be aware that this is not the only dimension in improving our health and vitality. Very often, we get so caught up with the physical body that we forget to assess, evaluate, investigate or even acknowledge other dimensions that make up health and vitality. Patterns of emotional, psychological and spiritual stress combine in ways that affect the subtle energy systems of the human energy field that in turn begin to affect the human physical body.
Most fitness professionals are aware of the three dimensions or to what Gary Gray has termed “3D ology.” The three dimensions lie at the essence of functional training. Function is integrated, multi-planar movement that involves acceleration, deceleration and stabilization, while also utilizing concentric and eccentric training in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal and transverse). It is under these three planes of motion that we traditionally condition our clients, and this is where the term three dimensions of function originated.
Chip Richards was first to open the vault and coin the phrase the fourth dimension of fitness. This dimension, which sits outside the traditional three dimensional model of movement, begins to examine the non physical processes that encompass human health. I would like to expand on that non physical component and look at what this extra dimension means for optimal health and well being. These extra dimensions allow us to have a more expanded, integrated and holistic view of human health and performance.
Intuitively, we can all recognize that emotional, psychological and spiritual stress play a part in health and indeed physical performance. However, until recently, the Western world has not even given these components consideration in any research. As a consequence, the fitness industry has worked with an “outside in” approach, first starting with the physical movements and hoping that these will cause shifts on the internal landscape that will then cross over to the decisions and subsequent choices people make. However, to be truly effective across all levels in human health and performance, why not approach all dimensions simultaneously by also working inside out? This means coaching our clients on understanding how our thoughts, feelings and beliefs interact and create the conditions of health and vitality and also those of degeneration and disease.
Our thoughts, feelings and beliefs combine in different ways to create subtle changes in the human energy field, which then begins to affect our biology. In fact, dominant thoughts regarding different life issues can be plotted with accuracy against certain organs or areas of the body. Even certain illnesses can be traced to different patterns of thinking. Let’s take the leading cause of death in most Western countries: heart disease leading to a myocardial infarction. Being fitness experts, most of us can readily give a physical description of this occurrence, which is a hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis brought on from deposits of cholesterol in the walls of the blood vessels. When this happens in the heart and a vessel becomes occluded, a heart attack occurs. High levels of cholesterol and low levels of high density lipo-protein are an underlying cause, while a surge in adrenaline could be the precipitating factor. Other factors include smoking, caffeine, obesity, diet high in animal fat and sugar.
However, understanding heart attack from an energetic standpoint invites another dimension of influence including emotional, psychological and spiritual stress to be included into the equation. One of the pioneers in the work of energy field and health, Caroline Myss, suggests that an energy evaluation is naturally inclusive of the whole process and not limited to understanding the activity of one particular organ or system. Myss suggests that a heart attack is literally an attack on the heart chakra (see below) and is brought on by the inability of the individual to acknowledge and therefore process the emotional stresses in his or her life. In particular, the people who prefer not to think about the meaning or significance of the events and relationships in their lives (usually because it upsets them or they feel unable to control matters) are more prone to create heart attacks than people who know how to cope with internal stress. Myss suggests that in the language of energy, a heart attack is an explosion of energy attempting to break down an emotional barrier a person has created.
So why have we for so long focused our attention on the limiting nature of the physical dimensions, when our emotional, psychological and spiritual processing also impacts health? Well, to date, all of our insights into health and the human body have been derived from views of investigating the world at large. These have stemmed from the Newtonian model that represented that world as we saw it. This can also be summed up by Einstein’s famous formula, E=mc2, that deals with energy, force and matter and is useful in understanding how to build things but is rather limiting in fully understanding human health. Newtonian physics is a mechanical, deterministic view that is rigid rather than fluid and relies on force and control, matter and energy. It can be simply summed up by the equation A – B – C. A gives rise to B, which gives rise to C, a simple cause and effect formula. If this happens, then that happens. This concept is hugely important in construction and creating material things and explains the physical reasons why disease and breakdown may occur, such as in our heart attack example, but as we shall see, it is rather limiting in completely understanding all of the factors that make up human health.
The current scientific mechanist model maintains that everything is made up of building blocks of matter such as protons and electrons. These things constitute everything in existence, so if we study these things, we should understand the world. Thus, the current model has seen us place more and more emphasis on dividing our world into smaller and smaller parts and studying them in isolation. Clearly, this is a flawed model as research tells us that isolation simply isn’t true. Today physics, biology and quantum mechanics are telling us that everything is connected. An example of this is what biologist Rupert Sheldrake has termed a Morphogenetic Field, which occurs whenever a member of one species learns a new behaviour. If the behaviour is repeated long enough, its “morphic resonance” affects the entire species. Sheldrake created morphogenetic from morph meaning “form” and genesis meaning “coming into being.” The action of this field involves action at a distance in both time and space. Rather than form being determined by physical laws outside of time, it depends on morphic resonance across time. An event somewhere can therefore affect and influence events elsewhere. A classic example of this was evident in a study by zoologist Lyall Watson, where he showed what has become known as the "hundred monkey principle.” He demonstrated that when a group of monkeys learned a new behaviour, suddenly other monkeys on other islands with no other possible normal means of communication learned that behaviour as well.
Moving back to health. Maybe we should be looking at the body in integration rather than isolation. Prescribing medicine to get rid of an invader is based on research and thinking founded on the premise that the world is composed of separate parts. This view does not deal with the illness, only the symptom, and it leads to compartmentalization and contradiction. We cannot isolate the cause of a disease that includes many levels of experience and function including the thoughts, feelings and belief systems of the person in question.
To really understand health, spiritual leader and educator Barbara Brennan has suggested we need to move our metaphor from matter and energy to information. An information metaphor suggests a two way process of information exchange, like having a conversation. This is very different from the one way push of Newtonian mechanics upon which our current medical model is based. For example, let’s consider most of the scientific health research that has been conducted, whether looking at the effectiveness of a new drug or treatment. Almost all of these studies only assess the effectiveness of an intervention and in no way take into consideration the predominant emotions, pattern of thinking or belief systems of the subjects involved. An information model allows for the all important concept of including the observer in the equation. This inclusion admits a new level of intelligence in the equation that the matter and energy metaphor simply did not allow. Subjective experience and interpretation would have simply interfered with determining the reality and completely skewed any research involving the scientific method, since thought or emotion cannot be measured.
However, as we are all aware, the observer plays an important role in determining the reality as it is the observer’s participation that makes the difference in whether that person will recover, progress, regress or stay the same. The thoughts, feelings and beliefs of two people observing exactly the same phenomena will be completely different, generating a completing different response in their bodies’ energy systems, which in turn will affect health. The key point with information is that unlike energy and matter, information does not change with the time-space continuum but exists regardless of these limits. This means that many traditional and contemporary energy healers such as Myss and Brennan are able to access past and future information that has led to the faulty information processing and subsequent emotional responses that have disrupted the human energy field and created the conditions of a diseased body. In fact, Myss diagnosed patients who were under the care of Dr. Norman Shealy, the head of the complimentary medicine association of the United States, based in New York. Dr. Shealy would call Myss and only give her the patient’s name and date of birth. Over 10 years, she proved to be 93 percent accurate from her base in Los Angeles, more accurate than the other doctors who were physically examining the same patients. Not only this, but she was able to link the disease to the emotional issue that created the conditions for disease in the first place.
An information metaphor accounts for these occurrences and suggests the concept that mind gives rise to matter, which is the basis of many Eastern philosophies, versus the philosophy of the West, that matter gives rise to mind. This is how we in the fitness industry have largely been working with our clients. If you have been in the industry for a while, you will have come across clients who have failed to make shifts or changes, have become stuck, hit a plateau or simply not made any progress at all. All of the work in the physical plane will not make a difference to these people until you are able to make a shift in the way they think, view the world and process emotions. Helping someone overcome these blocks that limit success can be something simple from not feeling the need to eat certain foods to a belief that they are a victim and are not in control of their circumstances in life. A shift on this level is almost like an “aha!” moment, when a new insight or realization or more likely energy shift occurs, and the subsequent processing of information that comes in generates a new association of that information, which will then generate a different behaviour and will lead to a different result.
The Western world is only now beginning to turn its attention to researching this material because we have only recently had the technology to do so. Highly sensitive machines are now being used to measure the affects of our thoughts and feelings. In the West, our knowledge of the human body stems from the Cartesian method of scientific inquiry. We must be able to reproduce and measure results for them to be believed true. As Brennan suggests in her book Light Emerging, “absence of proof isn’t proof of absence!” The next 25 years will see quantum leaps in our understanding, and it will probably take us back full circle to what the Chinese and Indians understood 5,000 years ago!
This concept of mind giving rise to matter changes things a great deal. It leads us into holism. This is where the psychological, emotional and spiritual dimension of our being becomes incredibly important. Let’s examine how all of this affects the human body. It is through thoughts, feelings and beliefs that our clients interpret events. It is their consciousness and interpretations of phenomena around them that creates the conditions of optimal health and well being… or decay and disease. As John Randolph Price says in The Wellness Book, “Five miles of jogging may not cancel out five minutes of hostility. And all the vitamins on the shelf simply will not overcome the physical damage caused by daily doses of resentment and un-forgiveness.”
Indeed our thoughts and emotions are very powerful, and they send vibration messages to our human energy field. Verified by scientific equipment to exist, this is a field of energy that extends out and around the human body. If you rub your hands together for 10 seconds and then hold them apart, you will feel warmth and a tingling sensation. This is your human energy field. These vibrations get sensed and metabolized in our chakras. Chakra is a Sanskrit word for "wheel," a funnel of energy. Chakras function as intake organs of energy for the universal energy field, and they can get blocked due to our beliefs, thinking and emotions. Chakra blockages due to their proximity to major nerve plexuses in the body that are rich with information carrying peptides can affect specific organs or parts of the body.
This way, you can think of emotions as holographically imprinted chemicals, which are designed to chemically reinforce things we have in long term memory. In fact, specific repeated thinking or emotional responses over time will come up as disease in predictable parts of the body due to the corresponding chakra’s association with the organs corresponding to that nerve plexus. Our beliefs attract certain thoughts about the world, depending upon the model we have created of the world and the situations in which we find ourselves. These thoughts create emotions, and our hypothalamus matches neuro-peptides to them. This is how the vibration interplay of beliefs, thoughts and feelings creates changes in our biology. For example, feelings of safety and being grounded in the physical world correspond to first chakra issues. Some people find the world at large is not a safe place, or they feel overwhelmed at providing the essentials of life for themselves. They may fear not being able to materialize their dreams and may feel they are completely alone in the world. Some of the common physical dysfunctions of these types of fear patterns include chronic lower back pain, sciatica, varicose veins, rectal difficulties and tumours in these parts of the body. Of course, the essential component for the onset of disease is the intensity of these fears.
Disease by definition is “without ease” or flow. Suppressed emotions, whether positive or negative, can cause blockages because emotional expression is also tied to the specific flow of peptides. It is these blocks of energy, or what the Chinese call “chi” and the Indians call “prana,” that creates the conditions for disease. So what does all of this mean for personal trainers? Well, by just understanding that there is more to generating results than applying the latest or greatest exercise or food regime, you are already halfway there. This opens up the possibility that it isn’t the physical dimension holding your client back. This is not the reason they have a degenerative disease. More than likely, the cause is the interplay of their thoughts, feelings and beliefs. If you are able to make changes on this internal level, the physical level is merely a reflection of what is happening internally. By the time the physical symptoms manifest in the physical body, the conditions have already been there for a long time. Just like training the physical body, you can generate improved results in one plane of motion simply by training the other two. This same transference principle is even more important in the fourth plane. By simultaneously working with clients not only in the physical dimension but also by working with their thoughts, feelings and beliefs, you are able to truly create changes on all levels and move past blockages and through negative patterns and emotions that hold them back.
You can start this immediately by asking better questions when you are with your clients. Begin to get an understanding of how they view the world. By building a picture of how they view the world, you are able to assess what dominant emotions and thoughts they focus on. If they are focusing on what they don’t want rather than want they do want, you will need to begin to direct their energy and thinking towards the things they do want. This simple drill is a great starting point. Ask them to use their imagination and take them on a journey to imagine they already have their specific goal of fitness or wellness. Get them to experience the FEELING now of having achieved their goals. Ask them what their predominant THOUGHTS are now that they have reached their goal. Now ask them what they BELIEVE about themselves now that they have this goal. By really bringing this to life with your clients, you are creating changes in their physiology by attaching an emotion to the thought, and in doing so, you are setting up the internal energetic conditions for success in pursuit of their health or fitness goals. By using tools and processes similar to this simple one, trainers, coaches and therapists can impact their clients on a much deeper level, allowing clients to bypass and override blockers that form in their subconscious mind and create healthy scripts from which they can run their lives.
- Brennan, Barbara Ann. Light Emerging. Bantam Books, New York 1993
- Brennan, Barbara Ann. Hands of Light. Bantam Books, New York 1988.
- Furlong, David. Working with Earth Energies. How to tap into the healing powers of the natural world. Piatkus, London 2003.
- Hawkins, David. MD Ph.D, Power versus Force. The hidden determinants of human behaviour. Hayhouse, London 2002.
- Katie Byron, Mitchell Stephen, Loving What Is, four questions that can change your life. Three Rivers Press, New York 2002.
- Myss, Caroline and Shealy, Norman. The Creation of Health. Bantom Books, London, 1999.
- Myss, Caroline and Shealy, Norman. Anatomy of the Spirit. Bantom Books, London. 1999.
- Pert, Candace. Molecules of Emotion. London Simon & Schuster, 1998.
- Randolph, Price John. The Wellness Book. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 1998. p. 6.
- Sheldrake, Rupert. The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature by Rupert Sheldrake. March 1, 1995.
- Watson, Lyall. Lifetide. The Biology of Consciousness.