The power of play and the subconscious mind

by Trevor Aung Than on July 10, 2012

Play/games/shenanigans we usually associate with children and thus the majority of adults will consider it beneath them to play games. This might be to kick a football, throw a tennis ball or to play dodge. This is rather unfortunate as the power of play and games incorporated into our daily lives not only adds a dimension of fun to an otherwise serious pursuit but it also has a number of other benefits, especially for those of us dealing with disease and dysfunction. Rather than me prattle on about the salubrious benefits of play, watch the following video of the master of games, Ian O’Dwyer, talk about his perspective on the power of play (to be clear here, I don’t mention Ian and other links on my blog as an affiliate i.e. I do not gain anything by mentioning these links, but if in my opinion it is information worth sharing, I share it).

Ian O’Dwyer on the power of play

To me, that is pretty powerful stuff from what most of us would consider just fun and games.

How do games affect change in our bodies?

To answer this question we need to delve deeper into, literally, our subconscious mind and examine the subconscious as it relates to something we all need to do – movement. We all know the meaning of subconscious – what happens without us thinking about it. As I type on this keypad I’m not telling my fingers to move downwards and hit the keys, it is happening subconsciously. Similarly if you were to get up and make yourself a cup of coffee, that action of getting up and going to the kitchen is all a part of subconscious movement.

Conscious vs. Subconscious

Subconscious movement happens extremely fast and can happen before we even have time to think about it versus the conscious mind which is rather slow and clumsy. A good analogy might be to compare the subconscious part of our brains as rather large and powerful, say a basketball, compared to the conscious part of the brain, say a golf ball. Our conscious mind is smaller by comparison and weaker (the golf ball) but does have a special power – over time, it can re-program the basketball, or our subconscious mind. This is true not only for movement and physical actions, such as swimming or learning to serve in tennis, but can be so for emotions and thoughts too.

This is why drills work

Another thing to note about our subconscious is it’s easier to program movements in a new area than it is to re-program an already existing area. Take running for example, we can only get so far in distance/speed by the act of running itself. Performing running drills helps the body in a certain area of focus, whether it be to increase stride length or to increase stride frequency. We might try to increase stride length by looking at increasing the mobility at the hip joint. Focusing on increasing stride length as a hip mobility drill allows our body to focus on this new task without any of our preprogrammed habits if we were just to focus on the conscious task i.e. if I just ask you to stride longer.

But back to games

This is why games are so powerful – they are subconscious and they are goal directed. This is also why I’m discovering tools such as the ViPR are so powerful at affecting change at the body. Give someone a task to complete with the ViPR and they do it. I never mention a ‘quads contraction’ or ‘tightening of the buttocks’. Have a look at a very simple game we played yesterday morning.

ViPR tennis

Simple. Subtle. There are just so many possibilities if we open our minds. Purists might argue how can a balloon game affect change? Well, think about someone that has poor hip mobility, and I get them to lunge to hit the balloon. What we know about dynamic movement in different directions under different mechanical loads - our fascia and tissues actually need this type of training if we want to change poor flexibility. And I’m not telling them what to do. The game takes them there.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Xin July 19, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I can’t remember where I heard it (possibly from Sun Tzu), but someone once said that the way that they got their subordinates to work with discipline and enthusiasm was by never telling them to do something they didn’t want to do. That is to say, they made work so enjoyable or inspiring that everyone was passionate about what they were doing, rather than resenting their leader for making them do it.


Trevor Aung Than July 24, 2012 at 3:31 am

Thanks Xin. They obviously knew the benefits of tapping the subconscious way back then!!


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