It wasn’t long ago that we started introducing the term Flowist into our community, and not surprisingly, it stuck almost immediately. I must admit that I’m glad it did as it is decisively better than the alternative “animal flow-ers” or the further simplified “flowers.”
Since officially adopting “flowist” we’ve repeatedly heard our instructors and students say they love the title, as it makes them identifiable as someone who has made Animal Flow a part of their life. It also gives them pride in sharing a name with others who have a similar mindset and approach to how they move their bodies, furthering the sense of a global tribe. While I love that the phrase flowist is associated with someone who practices Animal Flow, to me, living a life as a flowist represents far more than just movement.
Flow has been an increasingly popular word in the fitness space over the past decade or so, and for good reason: the word immediately conjures images of fluidity and grace. This remains true even when paired with something not so obvious, i.e., “kettlebell flow” or, as you may have wondered, Animal Flow. But what does Flow actually mean? Interestingly, the word Flow has multiple definitions that are all equally vague:
Turns out, Flow as a word can be used in many ways, and with no clearly defined rules, it can be open to interpretation. With that said, when we refer to the feeling or experience of flow, there are commonalities in the way people choose to describe it. Being in flow is often characterized as someone having a sense of ease while simultaneously having extreme focus. This can also mean having the ability to execute a task with seemingly less effort than usual. Many people report that time distorts, either speeding up or slowing down.
Even though the exact feeling may be hard to articulate, there are still no shortage of sayings that attempt to:
“I was really dialed in.”
“I was in my groove.”
“I was in the zone.”
“I was in my stride.”
The good news is that whichever way you’d like to explain the sensation, flow doesn’t discriminate: We can have the feeling of flow in conversation, art, writing, sports, work, music, dance, speaking, and the list goes on. But do we just wait to find ourselves in flow or is it possible to cultivate more opportunity for flow in our movements and in our lives?
I am a firm believer that rigorous structure is what eventually leads to freedom. Have you ever watched someone so good at something that they make it look effortless? As though they’re floating through the movements or barely even trying despite performing complex skills? You’re most likely witnessing a person in the latter stages of their journey towards mastery. Similarly, Daniel Coyle states in his book “The Talent Code” that there are three main ingredients; ignition (desire), master coaching and deep practice, each of which are essential to developing high level talent. Regardless of what you believe to be key in mastering a practice, the foundation always seems to be made up of some iteration of quality repetition and time.
I’m certainly not claiming that you must reach a master level to experience flow. I do, however, believe that the more we focus on putting the foundations of time and quality repetitions into our practice, the more likely it is that we can reach higher levels of flow and achieve it more consistently. The countless hours of repetition are what ingrain each movement into our brain, nervous system, and body, eventually allowing us to turn down our conscious thought about the execution and just move. At this level we are simply acting and reacting, which is especially apparent in “freestyle” Animal Flow. There is no choreography or predesigned sequence; we are surrendering to the time that we’ve put into our practice to see where our body wants to move us versus where we want IT to move.
As humans it seems that we’re always searching for a more complex answer or strategy, when the simple truth is – if we want to get better at a thing, we have to do the thing.
Go with the Flow. This is a nice sentiment, and many aspire to live a life of ease and flexibility with an anything-goes mindset. However, much like movement, navigating life with fluidity takes effort and practice. A great place to start optimizing our life-flow experience is to first identify the things that take us out of flow.
If you’re curious and want to challenge yourself, take a hard look at your daily life and think about the things that bring you stress, fear, anger or any emotion that affects you negatively. Now link those emotions to an event or situation that happens regularly.
“I’m stressed because I’m always running late.”
“I always feel tired which makes me feel irritable.”
“I don’t communicate well with my partner so I’m fearful they will leave me.”
“I hate my job and I get angry every time I walk in the door.”
Great, now what are you going to do about it? Blissfully ignoring or burying the things that take us out of flow will not make them go away. If we truly want to be rid of those repetitive moments, we can make the choice to put in significant effort to work on them. Maybe that means finding a good coach, therapist, or nutritionist, maybe it’s creating strategies to develop new habits or communication, maybe it’s finding new stress management tools, or maybe it’s even finding a new career.
The one thing we can guarantee is that change can be hard and scary. But, shouldn’t it be? A life focused on becoming a flowist is not necessarily a life of ease; it’s a life of striving to be better every day. Whether that means being a better mother, father, brother, sister, friend, employee, employer, teacher, student or citizen, it is ultimately our choice in how we want to express flow in all domains of life. A flowist (in my opinion) is on a never-ending quest to inhabit their bodies and this earth with a little more fluidity and grace.