Tips from posture and movement expert on how to 'reconnect with our bodies'

Ivana Daniell, founder of Body ID in the UK, is looking to branch out in Dubai

Humans have lost touch with their bodies, says Ivana Daniell. Photo: / Unsplash
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While humans have seemingly cracked the code to a long life, our bodies have not caught up to the implications. Decades of work as a posture and body expert has led Italian-born UK resident Ivana Daniell to believe that people have lost touch with their bodies.

"The contemporary lifestyle gives us amazing advantages, including a prolonged life. Today, I would say the 50s are the new 30s," she tells The National during her visit to Dubai for a collaboration with Voatti, a wellness clinic in Jumeirah.

However, she says the problem with a long lifespan is that it is not being "lived correctly" because people are becoming more sedentary, with technology as one of the main culprits.

"We are losing the capacity of the human body, which was built and created to be in constant movement. This is where the disconnection happens, and it does so very fast," says Daniell, who was a professional dancer before focusing her career on holistic wellness.

After a bad injury from dancing, Daniell quickly developed interest in learning how to recover, setting up one of Singapore's first rehabilitation and clinical Pilates centres. She has since created a signature method called Body ID, which focuses on identifying people's unique "body identities".

"In order to start any programme for wellness in your life, you need to discover your body identity, which is multidimensional. It's about your lifestyle, your clinical history, your genetic imprint as well as your movement personality," she explains.

Daniell, alongside doctors and other medical professionals, sits down with patients to discuss the different aspects of their lives. She then comes up with a unique programme that she says "works like a prescription". This can include different exercises to address particular body and posture concerns.

"I'm not a fitness person," she clarifies. She describes herself as a holistic wellness practitioner with a medical approach to treating the body.

Daniell has partnered with Voatti in Jumeirah to offer consultation services to potential patients in the UAE. Although she is based in the UK, the body expert says she will be spending some time travelling back to the Emirates regularly to offer her services.

Daniell has also published a book, A Manual for a Contemporary Body, where she goes into greater detail about what people need to understand in committing to a healthy body. Here are some tips she shares with The National.

Beware of gyms

While gyms can be really helpful for someone who is on their fitness journey, Daniell is concerned about merely "attacking the body". Her patients, she says, want to shift from the "gym-based, no-pain-no-gain culture into a more intelligent way of moving".

Daniell urges people to dig deep into their lifestyles because gym cultures can be "very superficial". It's all about functionality, she adds, and, sometimes, "a gym won't give you that".

In her book, Daniell says a person's body should not be the one adapting to a particular exercise method. Instead, she writes, "the movement and exercise programme needs to adapt to the person's specific needs and lifestyle".

"Don't just follow latest trends or what you see on Instagram, for example. Be very smart in understanding what your unique body needs," she adds.

Reorganise your workstation

One of the most common body-related problems today is incorrect posture, says Daniell, and the most obvious culprit is how people hunch their backs most of the time while working.

Daniell suggests investing in a good chair. "Ergonomic chairs are specially designed to give proper hip and back support during long sitting hours," she writes in her book.

She says the height of the chair is the most important thing to consider. "The lower the chair, the worse it is for your back. The best way is to create a 120-degree angle at your hips. Keep legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor. Sit with your body weight distributed equally on both hips."

The computer monitor should be eye-level, she says, and "keep your shoulders relaxed to prevent stress on your neck and shoulder area".

Learn how to breathe

Breathing is essential to unlocking a good relationship with one's body, says Daniell. Although it is the most important act of life, she adds it is the most undervalued.

There are many different breathing techniques, but there is only one correct way to breathe. "We breathe using our lungs and our diaphragm muscles," she says.

"Learning proper diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation for learning more advanced and more vigorous breathing techniques," she writes in the book, which has an entire chapter dedicated to (the art and science) of breathing.

To determine whether you are doing the right thing, Daniell offers some exercises. "Find a comfortable place to sit and try to maintain your back as straight as you can. Place both feet on the ground and put your hands on your lap."

"Take a deep breath through the nose. As you inhale, the diaphragm muscle will descend towards the abdomen. Exhale through the mouth and as you do this, the diaphragm will release and rise upwards.

"The neck and shoulders should not be used and raise. In diaphragmatic breathing, you should concentrate on feeling as much as you can the action of the rib cage expanding and narrowing."

Updated: April 30, 2024, 10:02 AM