Dubai: Leading movement expert on gymming with caution

Leading posture and movement expert Ivana Daniell, who is all set to visit Dubai on April 26, on why the journey to fitness begins with understanding contemporary body


Anamika Chatterjee

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Published: Sun 21 Apr 2024, 2:07 PM

Last updated: Sun 21 Apr 2024, 9:38 PM

The greatest irony of modern life is while, on one hand, it moves at a breakneck speed, on the other, it has also relegated us to a static life. In many cases, our jobs need us to sit in front of a computer screen and deliver. Outside that, our mobile screens demand attention. This sedentary nature of living has given rise to many lifestyle problems, but our posture and movement have been the first casualties. Ivana Daniell is one of the world’s leading movement and posture analysts, who is all set to visit Dubai this week to give consultation on bodily movement and posture at Voatti Clinic in Jumeirah on April 26. “I have nothing to do with fitness,” she warns as we chat with the London-based movement expert ahead of her visit. “I describe myself as a body philosopher.”

So, what does the role of a body philosopher entail? “I use the Body ID method, which recognises your true body identity. Your Body ID is likely to be different than someone else’s/ By discovering your body identity, we make very intelligent and conscious choices to improve out body, posture and wellbeing.” Daniell uses the Ayurvedic concept of doshas (based on the concept of wind, bile and phlegm, the elements that decide which type of body one possesses) and then assesses the exercises, body shape and movements that have led a person to the current posture.

What makes Daniell’s work interesting is that it customizes solutions as per the body type. She strongly advocates the concept of intelligent movement that is suited to a person’s body. “Intelligent movement could comprise exercises like pilates or yoga that are done with mindfulness. So essentially, intelligent movement is exercise that is done with awareness of the mind. So you concentrate a lot. Your mind has to send the right information to the muscle. In neuroscience, it is called neuroplasticity. This is what athletes, dancers and gymnasts use when they are being coached. When the brain sends the message to the muscle, it becomes muscle memory, and that stays with you forever. When you apply this principle to your daily life, you get the right results,” says the author of A Manual for Contemporary Body.

Understanding Contemporary Body

How is contemporary body different from the one our predecessors had? Daniell says that for one, a sedentary lifestyle is determining our movement choices, as a result of which “we have lost posture and movement awareness”. Daniell looks at your lifestyle and the genetic imprint. “I do a very long interview to understand why your body has adapted to that misalignment, why you have pain, what kind of exercises you do, how you sit. I do a thorough analysis of your lifestyle. I am not interested in how fit or unfit you are. I am interested to see how your body adapted to this present moment of your life. I then create a personalised programme with simple movements.”

If hitting the gym does not figure in Daniell’s scheme of things, it is because she believes a one-size-fits-all approach is not suitable for every body type. “The gym culture encourages people to push themselves, which may put the body under extreme stress. Such stress is not just physical but also hormonal in nature. Your body’s ecosystem goes crazy. We need to be able to balance hormones. In a gym, you are given a routine which is like a Big Mac Meal, a fast food of exercise, whereas intelligent movement is like a chef recommending you what’s best for you,” says Daniell. “I am not a young woman at all, I am 70, but I have applied these principles to my life and I am as fit as a 30-year-old.”

The Alternatives

If our pursuit of fitness is putting our bodies under extreme duress, then what are the solutions? It is here that Daniell’s push towards understanding movement personality stands out. She says if one is naturally laidback, then even if the person is hitting the gym everyday, s/he may not be exercising mindfully. For such a person, walking is a more natural alternative. “In my book, there is a chapter called ‘These Feet Are Made For Walking.’ It is the most functional movement for human beings. Your legs are your wheels. Contemporary lifestyle has made us use cars and, as a result, we have lost natural movement. I advise all my patients to walk 30-40 minutes in a day. It is also the most amazing anti-stress exercise.”

But what about those who are actively looking to lose weight? “Weight is important in relation to your body fat. Of course, if you put on 20 kilos, it’s a problem. You need to look at your body from a mental, physical and clinical lens,” she says.

What matters the most, says Daniell, is balancing the hormones, especially for women. “Every decade in a woman’s life is defined by her hormonal stage. We have to be aware of which decade we belong to. You could be in your 30s and ready to have a child. You could be in your 40s and still have small children. You could be in your 50s and hit menopause, but if you approach it the right way, you will be fine,” says Daniell.

How do you approach menopause ‘the right way’? “Hormonal changes bring physical changes. We can target these physical changes. During menopause, your hormones drop and the pelvic area is challenged as a result. That’s why women develop paunch, which we call menopausal tummy. Then there are other changes that menopause brings like depression, cravings, etc. “A correct exercise regimen during menopause is vital. When you put a menopausal woman in a gym, you kill her because it causes more adrenalin stress, which, in turn, wreaks havoc in hormones.”

In the end, it is largely about how much you love yourself. "Yesterday, I was watching an interview with Jane Fonda. An interviewer asked her what was the secret to look absolutely gorgeous at 86. She said something that I have also advocated in my book. She said she had exercised all her life, she walks every day and, most importantly, she feels young in her mind."


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