It looks so easy!

Jan 24, 2011

As an instructor I hear that phrase a lot…”You make it look so easy!” I often reply with a smile, “Well, I’ve done it two or three times before.” There actually are factors involved that make any complicated task look easy when being performed by an expert. Such tasks might include cooking, playing a musical instrument, sports, sewing and yoga.

The Brain that Changes Itself
by Norman Doidge, MD contains what I feel are two main factors that contribute to the “looking so easy-ness” of things. The first has to do with acquiring a new skill. Our brains have maps for certain skills, or places where the brain is firing. When learning a new skill, many neurons in that area are firing. So when learning a new pole move, for example, you may grimace with your face, use your vocal cords, or place hands or legs in an incorrect position – lots of neurons communicating with your body at one time. Over time, if you repeat the same skill with concentrated attention (if you are only half-assing your efforts the results are not the same) fewer neurons will fire and you will begin to develop ease and grace in the movement. Your face will relax, the vocalizations fade away, and a fluidity and precision will develop as only the needed neurons are involved.

The second factor that I think is so important to the ease is the duration of concentrated effort. “…becoming an expert in most fields usually takes about a decade of concentrated effort.” I don’t believe anyone becomes an expert at something they do only occasionally. Even if you do something with great attention once a week it is not enough to truly create the expert ease that I am referring to. Professionals in any field, whether sports, music, art, or finance practice their skills most days of the week for years, yes even decades. I once tried to estimate how may yoga and pole fitness classes I have attended in my life time and gave up trying when the number went over 2000!

The first few years of my own practice were sporadic, once or twice a week for a few years. But about 10 years ago I began to put forth “concentrated effort” going to class anywhere from 4 to 8 times a week. (yes that means sometimes I took two class a day) What this means is that my brain maps for yoga and pole moves are very precise. Anyone who dedicates the time and effort into any field can develop those same precise brain maps.

Once those precise brain maps develop, they make learning a new skill in the same or similar field easier, requiring less space in the brain map. The new skill is often acquired faster than when there is no corresponding brain map.

In the first several years, I promise I did not make yoga look easy and it did not feel easy in my body or my brain! The same with pole fitness. It is only with dedicated, focused practice that I have come to acquire the easiness so many people comment on. The good news is, so can you if you choose!

I’d like to leave you with this little video of me working on a new pole move. You can see I still require some extra movements, sounds and facial expressions to get it to happen. Since I filmed this just a few weeks ago this move has already smoothed out a bit and looks easier than it did just a few weeks ago. Enjoy!

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