Kinesthetic Learning

There are several different types of learners in the world.

Some people learn best from watching, some from listening, and others, like me learn by feeling.

Knowing what type of learner you are and accepting that can go a long way in developing new skills.  It allows you to work more efficiently and can help you to understand your individual needs.

I bring this up today because I was having one of those days were nothing ‘felt’ right. Because I am a kinesthetic learner, I really rely a lot on tactile sensations.  When I am learning something new, I try to replicate what I see and translate that into what I feel when I am doing the movement–whether it’s a stretch, specific muscles being used, pressure–any physical sensation generated by the movement.  Once I know that something looks right (meaning I have Boss’s approval), I work to try and recreate those sensations as closely as possible as I work through it to try and develop some muscle memory.

Because the physical sensations are so important to my learning and development, I think that is why I find practice and repetitive training so meditative.  When I have my ipod on and I am off by myself in my corner I effectively close off my auditory and visual senses so that I can focus completely on what my body is doing.

Most days, this is extremely stress relieving, calming, productive and mind clearing.  But every now and then I have a day like today when I just can’t seem to focus down and everything is just ‘off’.  It’s like my body won’t cooperate with my mind.

The key to days like today is to not let myself get frustrated and just keep moving through my exercises.  Find small positives and write them down in my ‘Book of Positives’.  Be proud that I didn’t give up and plowed through.  Know that the next day will be better–it almost always is.

One of the other things I wanted to point out with this is a realization of really how much my relationship with Boss as my coach, instructor and partner has developed.  I have been training with him almost 3 and a half years, and for some reason the frustrations I experienced today reminded me of a difficult period Boss and I encountered about two years ago–but ultimately led to a positive change on how he taught me.

As far as I can tell, Boss is not a kinesthetic learner.  I think he is more visual and certainly auditory.  I am almost useless when it comes to learning from what I hear and translating that into what I do.  I have to try something and figure out what it feels like before I know if I understand it.  For Boss, the idea that I rely so much on my ‘feelings’ was almost an alien concept for him and anytime I told him that something didn’t ‘feel’ right, we would usually end up having an argument where he would tell me I can’t rely on my feelings and I should focus on what things look like.  In addition to the learning gap, there was also a bit of a language gap where ‘feelings’ to a Russian is more about ’emotions’ and doesn’t quite translate into the ‘physical sensations’.  So initially Boss thought I was talking about my emotions.

It took a lot of conversations and explanations but eventually we reached a compromise.  I finally found the word ‘sensation’ to describe my ‘feelings’ and that went a long way.  In the end, I started to work on equating what I feel with what I see, and Boss began to understand my need to try things before they ‘clicked’ and I understood them.

One of the biggest positive things to come out of that whole period was that when I was having difficulties with some things and seemed to be doing the same thing wrong over and over, he would ask me if I could feel that I was doing something (for example that I was twisted). More often that not, I would have no idea. This led him to realize why I struggled so much in standard before my surgery.  I am hyper-flexible through my back, so movements that feel ‘stretched’ to other people felt the same an any other movement to me because I never felt a stretch as I twisted. It made him realize he had to try a different approach in working with me on standard to try and help me to develop an awareness of what my body was doing.

It’s been frustrating work for both of us, and it got much better after my surgery because of the way everything got pulled, but understanding the differences in each other’s approach, and style of learning has helped us to work better together.

I am not sure why today reminded me of those conversations, but maybe it is because I am working on developing some new skills and muscle memory right now and today felt like muscle amnesia.  It just reminded me of how lost I can feel when I can’t get things to feel ‘right’.

But I am sure that tomorrow things will start to ‘click’ again. Sometimes having an ‘off’ day helps you to appreciate those days you are truly ‘on’.


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