East meets West and blends linear with creative.

            In the last forty years or so, America cultivated an obsession with how the body looked.  From full clothed bathing suits to muscle beach, the main theme with exercise was to develop the muscular look.  Joe Weider, Charles Atlas, Tarzan, Hercules, Arnold Schwarzenegger etc. became male models that created the gain a pound a day mentality that had many people pumping iron.  As a result, the only fitness programs in any school had its basis with push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups and jumping jacks complemented with weight lifting.  As America became more conscious with fitness, more machines like Nautilus equipment began to show up in health clubs.  This linear approach to health looked good from the outside and provided solid short term strength but it did very little for endurance and performance of any given sport or dance form, that is, unless one wanted to be a lineman on a football team.  This type of linear training could take anyone just so far physically and what was missing was the component of the mind where an athlete could transcend and execute effortless performance like a Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky, and Flo Joyner etc…the realm of being in the “Zone”.       Even the Aerobics trend that was fashionable by the likes of Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, and Richard Simmons etc. was linear.  If you watch closely, the “Step”, which became a great market success, is made up of linear movements that are up and down, sideways and very military in structure, constantly re-invented by some new aerobic slant that is packaged differently to do the same thing.  Its positive result is a strong cardio-vascular workout that is especially good for endurance.  The negative side is the high impact and over emphasis of the linear model.  I have treated many related injuries in people using these systems to keep it in the category of today’s fitness.

            What is needed in today’s fitness is an approach to health that has to do with cultivation of internal as well as external strength, kinesthetic awareness, flexibility and a creative approach to movement.  Since the early seventies, more performance artists and athletes have turned to eastern practices that represent a more internal approach and the results have opened the doors of the East into today’s mainstream consciousness.  There are a variety of Yoga’s from stationary postures to the marriage of aerobics which I call “yogaerobics”, being taught across the country.  There is the body of Martial Arts ranging from the hard forms of Karate to the softer forms of Aikido, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.  The big fad today is Tai Bo which is basically the marriage of Aerobics and Karate.  The soft forms of Martial Arts are gaining in popularity every where as people are seeking teachers for Tai Chi and Qi Gong.  These softer forms of Martial Arts help to quiet the mind and develop a deeper sense of peace and strength.  The workplace has become too aggressive to agitate the mind further with chaotic exercise.  Truly, now is the time for the wisdom of the East to meet with the technology of the West.  I see it happening everywhere I look, simply because I am trained in eastern practices and can discern the roots of what is being presented today as something new in the field of health and well being.  Being trained in the disciplines of Yoga, both Iyengar and Ashtanga, the discipline of certain asanas or postures can cultivate a deep strength in the tissue fiber of the muscle as well as promote vitality to the organs.  Similar results occur with the practice of Martial Arts and Meditation.  These are the avenues we must explore for the well being of individual health, and these are the avenues that today’s competitive athletes from all sports and dancers from all performing arts are exploring.


Why the Flo bag?

            The Flo bag is where the Western ingenuity meets with the wisdom of the East.  It’s made of a special poly-urethane plastic likened to the plastic a surgeon may use inside the body. It is a breathable plastic that is strong and flexible, capable of withstanding endurable stress.  The Flo bag is an eight inch diameter tube that stretches the length of the body with handle loops on each end.  Add about a quart or so of water to the bag and it’s ready to use:  Instant exercise, just add water.  One of the great features of this tool is that it’s portable.  It folds down to the size of a pair of socks and can be taken anywhere one travels.  After one goes beyond the basics, a kinesthetic sense of awareness will grow in the assessment with the kind of movements one can do in a given space.

            In my technical terms, Flo-motion is a cross-crawl coordinating feedback tool.  As one moves the water from one end of the bag to the other, a rhythm from a dynamic to a receptive phase is established.  The result is that the dominant side of the body awakens the dormant (untrained) side of the body to equal dexterity.  Since we are one sided, that is, either right or left handed, we tend to develop unconscious patterns in the body which influences the way we execute a movement such as throwing or simply picking up a weight.  Over time these repetitive movements can create chronic problems such as back pain, headache and a number of complaints the drug companies are getting rich on.  As a therapist, I am only pointing out the existing Pathology to a vulnerable structure.  It’s pretty much like unbalanced tires on your car.  They wear out faster.

            Flo-motion is a system of movements made up of interweaving vertical and horizontal planes of motion.  It is patterned on the body’s natural cross-crawl motion like the movement one does when crawling or when walking with opposite arm moving simultaneously with the opposite leg.  Such a movement in the early stages of life is known to develop brain function in kinesthetic coordination and many studies today support this knowledge.  This cross-crawl movement is now a common practice for the treatment of learning disabilities.  This movement helps to access the left and right brain hemispheres.  The left side of the brain is known as the logical side and the right side of the brain is known as the abstract or creative side.  Most of the Flo movements will stimulate the brain function simply because it naturally accentuates the cross-crawl pattern.

            The Flo differs from aerobic workouts by using circular movement rather than linear movement.  Because of the nature of water, the flo bag can be manipulated to mimic most sports movements perfectly, creating a pattern of movement that uniquely supports the execution of that particular motion. For example, in playing Golf, the centrifugal weight of the club circumscribes an arc of movement in the vertical plane.  There is little room for error in a Golf swing.  I can teach a golfer the same movement with a Flo bag and improve the players game within a weeks time simply because the Flo movement is more true in a repetitive way, enabling the golfer to correct any bad habits that crept into his or her game.  There’s not a golfer out there that won’t buy this bag if they think it’ll help their game.  I have had only positive feedback with any person I have personally trained for the sole purpose of Golf.  I guarantee improvement because as a structural anatomist, I know that one must have a good range of motion in the shoulder girdle as well the lower back to execute such a movement and Flo-motion naturally increases range of motion in all joint areas.

            Other examples are swimming and throwing and their related sports.  I worked with the Indiana Pacers, an NBA professional basketball team as a therapist and movement coach.  I was with them for three months at the beginning of their season to help re-hab a few key players.  This was in 1993.  I taught each member how to Flo and because of their natural athletic abilities, was impressed in how quickly they learned.  One particular player, Rik Smits, was a center with a height of 7 feet 8 inches tall.  Rik had difficulties with his knees.  It was easy for me to see the flaw in his gait as he ran from a center of gravity above the navel.  By teaching him the Flo and a few fundamentals of running, he began to ground his movements and before long he was running with a lower center of gravity below the navel.  This eliminated the wobble from side to side as he ran which took away the stress on his knees.  That season the Pacers made it for the first time in their franchise history to the playoffs and Rik Smits was playing without knee support, something he hasn’t done in years.  Because the Flo works both sides equally, it is more likely that an athlete can cultivate ambidextrous movements such as throwing a hook shot with the left arm as smoothly as the right.  And for basketball players as well as volleyball players, this type of coordination is valuable.

            There are many overhead movements in the Flo system that naturally increases range of motion in the shoulder girdle.  If you think about it, the only time we use overhead movements likened to a swimming backstroke is when we are active in sports, otherwise, unless we are changing a light bulb, we rarely do overhead movements.  In my profession we use the term, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, which applies to the lack of use in these movements.  As we get older we develop bursitis, tennis elbow, and even arthritis, simply because the lack of overhead movements does not allow the blood flow

to carry out calcium deposits.  The Flo movements not only stimulate blood flow in the shoulder girdle, it strengthens the tendon fiber in the joint area, enabling the body to execute a more fluid movement.

            After twelve years of teaching the Flo movements, I have seen rehabilitation in grossly atrophied conditions, children suffering with ADS increase in attention span and coordination, all athletes improve in strength, flexibility and performance and the elderly become playful.  The key word with the Flo is “PLAYFUL”. It’s fun, uniquely different and before one realizes it, a good workout just happened.  After one uses the Flo, the body’s gait is more balanced, there is a noticeable feeling of lightness and the posture becomes more erect.  With all the above information I have given you concerning body mechanics, the most important factor in using the Flo is this:  within a month of using the Flo regularly, there will be a noticeable change in posture and balance.  The anatomical structure will become more upright and the ease of movement and balance become more defined.  My point is that the natural effects of doing these movements are greater than any therapist can do to your body.  The Flo does more to pattern the body into balance than any of the existing modalities available today.  This alone puts it in the “priceless” category.  In other words, you can buy fish from me and it’ll feed you for a meal, or I can teach you how to fish and you’ll never go hungry.

            I have also worked with teams such as a volleyball team and what I observed to my delight is this:  if every player Flo’s together before a game, it will synchronize their rhythm as a unit.  The moment they serve the first volley, everyone is in synch with one another.  The Flo will help individual performance and it can also be utilized as a team workout.  And a workout it is!  After five minutes of flo~ing, you’re body can be breaking a sweat and you’re easily getting into a cardio-vascular workout.  Because the Flo bag moves from one hemisphere of the body to the other, a rhythmic meter is established and one can flo to any kind of music.  The kind of workout one wants can be dictated by the music.  It can be easy or challenging, linear or creative and like the element of water, it seeks its own level.  By this I mean that anyone can Flo, but not everyone starts at the same level.  Individuals who know their bodies and are mentally aware, will learn the movements quickly and experience the Flo potential within minutes.  In the beginning, it took me well over an hour to teach eight basic movements.  Now, twenty-three years later, I find that people get the eight basic movements in less than half an hour.  Of course, my teaching skills have sharpened but more so, the evolution of the movements is beginning to surface within the Collective conscious and as much as the Flo bag was a tool of the future, I believe that it’s now coming into it’s own time.

            The Flo bag is a cross-training tool for any athlete, dancer or rehabilitation purpose.  It can accentuate or complement any discipline, such as Yoga, Weightlifting, Aerobics, and can be the main discipline of choice for sports training.  It coordinates movements and harmonizes the mind.  It affects the mind by stopping mental chatter while flo~ing.  As one uses the bag, one’s mind naturally relaxes because there is less chatter going on.  This aspect of the Flo can be experienced after one goes through the learning stage and the movements are more natural.  Thus far I have mentioned mostly stories of athletes and rehabilitation.  Concerning the mind aspect of Flo, I have also taught a number of musicians and writers and they all had interesting feedback from working with the Flo.  Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band was so infatuated by the Flo that I coined the word “Flonatic” especially for him.  Jimmy publicly told an interviewer that he attributed the Flo to be instrumental in having won a Grammy.  In a bizarre way, Jimmy began to switch playing golf from his natural right handed side to the left handed side, just to explore new dimensions.  Jimmy uses the Flo on a daily basis.  I also worked with John Denver and both John and Jimmy adopted the Flo as the principle means of exercise on the road.  Many entertainers travel a great deal and the Flo is the perfect workout.  Concerning writers, the Flo can help a writer break through a block by simply shifting the brain function.  As it stimulates the left and right brain, it can easily refresh the mind with new ideas by dissipating obstructions.

            The three rings of the Flo represent the three phases of learning until one can achieve the level of free~flo~ing.  That’s the goal: to be able to pick up the bag and start moving to explore movements.

            The first ring is the beginning lesson.  There are eight basic movement that are in a stationary position.  It’s important to understand each movement and work with them until they are mastered.  These movements are the foundation to the whole system.  Thus far I have only made a video for the stationary movements and I called the video, “Return to Basics”.  In the early days, too many of my students were becoming movement junkies and were losing sight of the principles, so I would always bring them back to the foundation movements.  Foundation movements teach the body proper foot placement, pivoting and contra lateral awareness.  This technical side is not mandatory for the consumer but the instructor must understand the First Ring inside out in order to teach for specific conditions.

            The Second Ring is the next phase of movements that overlay the stationary movements.  They do so by adding lateral steps and extra movements to the stationary movements.  The movements become more complex but easy to learn once the stationary movements have been mastered.

            The Third Ring actually has a movement called the three rings and is likened to being inside a gyro sphere.  This is the most evolved and complex movement in the Flo system.  Just a hint about this movement called the three rings:  it cannot be learned logically.  The practitioner evolves into it without thinking.  Anyhow, at this level of movement awareness one can manipulate the bag in a free flo~ing expression that is very dancelike, moving from one movement into another the same way a musician arranges individual chords to play music.  Individually this is the beginning place for exploring the body and movements and also the starting place for group choreography.

            The Flo has a place in this world.  It does too much to be ignored, but unlike other products, it needs to be approached with understanding and intelligence.  As a water element it can splash in the marketplace for a certain consumer group such as Fitness, and then it will seek new levels in other markets such as children, rehab and specialized training.  It can be a lasting movement or a passing fad and that all depends on the approach.  It only takes a little imagination to make it successful.