Emptying the Dishwasher. Exposing a Lost Art.

When, how often and how we move has a profound impact on our health. The frequency and duration of movement affects our metabolism and how much fat we burn. It’s literally silencing hundreds of genes and activating others. Motion through the spine in tandem with a healthy cardiovascular system ensures that cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) moves through the ventricles in your brain and supplies the spinal cord with nutrients while removing waste.

Motion promotes joint and muscle health, which in return may keep pain at bay. Moving activates stabilizer muscles and helps balance overall muscle tone. Paying attention to our body mechanics promotes brain plasticity and strengthens new movement/motor circuits.

Movement can be used to help us regulate emotional states. It can help us regulate the autonomic nervous system (flight or flight vs rest and digest). The large majority of Americans are bombarded with stress and experience a hyperactive sympathetic response - exercise and motion is a great way to put the adrenaline and cortisol to good use.

So where does emptying the dishwasher come in? I have caught myself thinking about this a handful of times while emptying my own dishwasher. I’ve experienced that my own conditioned movements inadvertently put me in a less than ideal posture. We create “default neural networks” which means that the brain gets good at using certain pathways. This is especially true with our movement patterns.

A task as mundane as emptying the dishwasher seems like it would serve very little value. However, like most of our daily movements they have become automatic or predetermined if you will. Whenever we move we are either “ gaining ground or loosing it.” In other words, we are training healthy engaged movement patterns or causing harm.

I’ll be the first to admit that unloading the dishwasher is not Thai Chi or yoga for matter. These forms of exercise require precise “conscious movement.” However, I would encourage you to take a more mindful approach next time you fill or empty the dishwasher. Go through the whole process with awareness. This way you will witness how the whole body works together while gaining a better sense of structure and posture. From start to finish you will bend, flex, reach, push, pull, lift, rotate, look up, look down and hopefully get a few breaths in.

Think about a few things:

  1. Are you bending your knees and hinging at the hips or straining your low back?

  2. Is your weight evenly distributed or do you dump weight into one leg and or even a specific spot on the sole of your foot?

  3. Are your upper trap muscles and neck tight with your head jutting out over your chest?

  4. Is your upper body squared off or are you cockeyed?

  5. When you reach to put away dishes is your core limp or activated. Does your arm elevate or does your whole shoulder move with it?

  6. Are you tuned in to what muscles are activated? Do you know what your posture looks like as you transition between sorting the cutlery and sliding the racks back into place?

  7. Are you moving in a conscious matter or allowing for poor body mechanics due to muscle imbalances, prolonged static postural stress, lack of movement variety and overall sedentary lifestyle.

Are you familiar with the statement “where the mind goes the body follows?” This simple concept of body awareness and our power to create and change is an active process. Today it’s not part of our normal routine to set aside some energy to restore healthy movement patterns. At any moment we are presented with an opportunity to cultivate more engagement and check-in with how we move.

A little bit of extra effort and examination on how we move may be the very thing that negates the need to pop some ibuprofen, saves you a trip to your ortho, keeps you in the gym, or even allows you to hold your grandchild without aches and pains. I’d gently implore you to pay a little more attention.