Weekly musings, 3/18/18: Constraints and movement
When a flock of birds flies, they follow three basic rules.* They maintain separation by not crowding their neighbors. They maintain alignment by steering towards the average heading of their neighbors. The maintain cohesion by steering towards the average position of their neighbors. Another way to look at the three rules of behavior (separation, alignment, and cohesion) is in order to fly, the birds must satisfy these constraints.
In mathematics, a constraint is a condition that the solution must satisfy. Applying constraints in a movement setting allows analysis and problem solving (“how am I going to perform the task while obeying the rule imposed”), and removes the idea that there is a certain way you must move to accomplish a specific task.
Introducing a constraint makes a movement interesting. It begins to look like game play, rather than “exercise.” Examples of how a constraint might be applied to an exercise setting include:
Move across the room with two contact points always in contact with the floor.
Set a timer for two minutes. Lower a body part as close to the floor as you can without actually touching the floor with the body part.
Set a timer for two minutes. Place your right hand on the floor. Move as many ways as you can without letting the right hand come off of the floor.
Constraints can involve using outside objects as well. Asking someone to place a yoga block flat in the left hand and draw a picture on the ceiling keeping the yoga block and the hand flat would be an example of using an object as part of the constraint.
Not only do constraints make movement interesting, they also engage the mind and the body together in a way that allows for embodied cognition. Cognitive psychologists believe that from an evolutionary perspective, we evolved to problem solve by using our mind and body to deal with issues in the environment. What if you were walking along and there was a huge tree that had fallen down, blocking the path between you and your food source? You would have to critically think about the problem, using the mental and physical options available to you. Could you climb over the tree? Is there a different path you could take? Could you make tools to cut a section of the tree out? Before we could ask Google to problem solve for us, we relied on a different set of cognitive strength, one which was deeply intertwined with the physical self.