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First Principles

The benefits of learning your body via a first principles approach

Learning to feel and control our body from a first principles approach means that we can apply that same awareness and control to any activity where we are using our body.

With respect to feeling and controlling your own body (or teaching others to control their body), muscles (and joints, and bones, and connective tissue spans) are the things that we can learn to feel and control.

A first principles approach also involves learning to feel and control how our body relates to the earth, and anything else (or anyone else) it is in direct physical contact with.

Riding a motorcycle

As an example, riding a motorcycle, we can feel the way we connect to the bike via our feet, hip bones and hands. And we can feel (and control) the way we use our body as a whole to control our combined center of gravity (that of the bike and that of ourselves.)

Doing tai ji or yoga

Doing tai ji, we can feel the way we connect to the earth, and if one foot is empty and the other full, we can feel the difference, and choose which foot (or any other part of our body) is empty or full (relaxed or stable.)

Doing yoga poses, we can work from the ground up, or the spine out to anchor muscles so that we can use them effectively to hold the pose with greater ease and or deepen it.

Improving flexibility

Doing stretches to improve flexibility, we can deliberately choose which muscles we activate and which we relax and we can work at anchoring the muscles we are "stretching" within the stretch itself… and we can chase this while looking for the best activation to achieve a goal, improved flexibility in a particular position or of a particular set of muscles.


Muscle control can be used both to feel our center of gravity and help control it relative to whatever foundation we are using, whether balancing on hands, or feet or one foot. Whether we are trying to balance on our head in a headstand, or one knee (just because we can).

Enjoying your body and getting into the flow

And it can be a very simple, and reliable way of experiencing your body so that you can enjoy the experience and/or to better understand it.

It's also an easy way of getting into the flow state, into the present moment, the zone, the state of "no mind" (or "know mind").

Muscle control is, in part about learning to smoothly turn muscles on and off.

It's also about adjusting positioning and tension whether:

  • to work towards better left/right balance,
  • more efficient body use (minimum effort given what you are trying to do),
  • fault finding, and in some cases fixing pain problems,
  • improving flexibility,
  • integrating the parts of the body and
  • offering options for the way you do things (when you aren't working "at the limit").

Say you are interested in activities that are less physical, as an example, calligraphy.

Muscle control and calligraphy

With muscle control you can sit with your spine long with minimal effort, but you can learn to adjust your posture to suit what you are doing. And you can learn to anchor the base of your spine whether you are writing while sitting or standing.

You can notice the way you hold and use your arm, from the shoulder blade and collar bone through your shoulder joint to your elbow, your wrist and even your fingers.

You can learn how to modify or "tune" muscle tension and positioning so that you can feel the way you connect to your writing implement and so you can use it all the while while staying within the range of effectiveness for all the parts involved.

Connecting while dancing (your "frame")

If you are a partner dancer, you can hold your body in such a way that your frame is just stiff enough while also being sensitive enough to feel your partner. The stiffness can make it easier to move together, transmitting force (and thus, information) from you to your partner, while at the same time allowing you to sense and vary the way you hold your frame and your partner.

Rather than being too rigid, or rather than being floppy, you can add tension and tune it so that you can effectively express the idea of the dance with your partner.

Muscle control takes practice

All of these activities require practice, and muscle control itself requires practice, a lot of it. But because it is easy to break down, it can be easy to learn it in the context of whatever it is that you are learning or practicing.

Another approach is to learn it step by step using yoga poses, for example, as the context.

The video packages below allow you to do just that.

Muscle control, a first principles approach to learning your body

The video courses below each focus on a particular aspect of muscle control so that you can get a better feel for your body while improving your ability to control it.

As far as "feeling" and "controlling" your own body goes, muscles (as well as joints and bones) are all things that you can learn to sense and control in relative isolation so that you can then feel and control them when not isolated.

Hip flexors

Feel and control the sartorius, tensor fascia latae and rectus femoris, the hip flexors that work on the knee as well as the hip. Improve control of knee rotation and hip stability.
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Learn how to anchor your hamstrings so that it's easier to control them. Improve control of knee rotation, hip flexion and hip extension.
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Thigh muscles

The thigh muscles include the quadriceps and adductors as well as the hamstrings. Get a better feel for your thighs and improve stabilization and control of your knee and hip joints.
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Long thigh muscles

The long thigh muscles control knee rotation and can have an affect on the SI joint(s) via the hip bone. Work towards better knee, hip joint and hip bone control.
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Deep Hip muscles

Deep hip muscles are those that tend to work solely on the hip joint. Improve hip joint stability and get a better feel for your hip joint.
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SI joints

The SI joints control how the hip bones relate to the spine. Get a taste of SI joint control and how it can affect (and be affected by) the arms and the legs.
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Learn to feel and control basic shoulder blade movements. Learn how to use your shoulders and arms to sense when you hands are lightly touching versus touching with pressure. Learn how to adjust the way you use your shoulders.
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Using first principles consistently would involve breaking the spine down into smaller elements. Instead, this course looks at the spine from numerous approaches that include building ribcage and hip bone awareness. Because the spine is a relatively complex structure, there is a fair amount of detail (and thus a lot of exercises) in this course.
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Muscle Control from first principles, bundle

Get all of the above for a slightly lower price.

by: Neil Keleher
Published: 2021 02 11
Clearly defined poses, exercises and stretches for improving stability, body awareness and flexibility.
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