Patrick Hogan: Natural Movement, Play, and Mind-Body Awareness
This week we're featuring Patrick Hogan, our Functional Strength and Mobility instructor at Inwood's Hanuman Health Club. We're digging into the evolution of his movement philosophy, what he's teaching at the gym and how he stays centered living in NYC. But first, a bit about Patrick:
Patrick Hogan is a certified yoga teacher (RYT-500 and ERYT-200), as well as being certified in Thai Massage and Mov Nat (Level 1 & 2).
Patrick’s intention is to assist in guiding people on their journey towards knowing their deeper selves. His methods include helping people develop their Sadhana (personal practices), awakening their mind/body potential through vinyasa and Mov Nat, and enhancing one’s sense of bodily freedom and energetic healing through Thai bodywork. He believes in a playful approach to his practices and his teaching. For it is through play that we do our deepest learning. And by learning to reconnect with our playful nature, we can better tune into our passions and purpose in life.
Hi Patrick! Tell us a little bit about yourself...
I grew up in the Seattle area spending my time skiing, rock climbing, hiking and climbing mountains. I also studied Tae Kwon Do, and participated in competitive swimming and triathlons. When I went to university in Colorado I began training with a freestyle and mogul ski team. It was at that point in my life when I tore a meniscus and the ACL’s of both my knees over numerous accidents. After a few years of knee surgeries I finally surrendered to the fact that I had to change my approach to how I used my body. It was then I discovered yoga and became enthralled with the benefits of relaxation and the integration of the mind and body. I became a yoga teacher in 2009 and earned my advanced certification a couple years later. Yoga, however, had always been a means to make my body healthy enough so that I could continue to do the things I really wanted in life - which mainly involved playing in nature.
When I finally discovered barefoot/minimalist shoe running, I knew I was on the right track: my knee pain went away and I began to truly enjoy running again. The barefoot movement led me to discover Mov Nat, the physical education system developed by Erwan Le Corre that aims to re-educate our bodies to regain efficiency in all the natural movements we evolved doing. I knew that was how I wanted to move through the world and hoped to spread my enthusiasm to others. I got certified as a Mov Nat level 1 trainer in 2014 and acquired my level 2 certification in 2017. Currently, I am continuing my education with studies of biomechanics and body alignment to become certified as a restorative exercise specialist.
Wow, that's really an incredible journey. How did you get into natural movement? What is it to you?
In a way, natural movement was a way of coming home to what I had always done as a child which was playing in nature. After spending some years seeking extremes in sports like skiing, rock climbing and triathlon and after numerous knee surgeries, I began to feel frustrated in my faltering attempts to rehabilitate my body and regain the levels of performance I once had. I felt more and more resistance to both any exercise that required lots of equipment and also any gym setting where exercise seemed like work and a task that one is obligated to do for health. As I discovered natural movement as a way of exercise, I rediscovered a sense of enthusiasm for movement. I felt free and watched as I began to achieve higher levels of fitness and skill doing something that no longer seemed like drudgery. The term exercise no longer seems to apply because what I do now is just mindful play. One of the great things about natural movement is that it applies to whatever you are doing and wherever you are: sitting, standing, walking, running, climbing, crawling, lifting, carrying, throwing, and even sleeping. Just living is being engaged in a natural movement practice.
What is your philosophy behind movement and how did you discover that?
A term used for animal behavior in which juveniles learn about the world is called “Neoteny”. Generally, it is a behavior of trial and error, experimentation, and it seems to be expressed as curiosity. The roots of the word are “Neo” meaning New and “Tenein” meaning Stretch. So, a “New-Stretch”. Interestingly, it also means “Play”.
In our modern world, we’ve outsourced much of our need for natural movement for survival. And yet, our bodies need that movement in order to be healthy. From my perspective, the problem with adding that movement requirement into our lives as an “exercise routine” generally seems artificial and lacks the emotional and mental stimulation that would drive us to sustain it. Thus, we are continually falling behind, failing at our goals, and discarding our resolutions to move more.
My philosophy is that movement should be play. It should be Neoteny. Meaning that movement must engage the mind, the emotions, and be infused with some sense of meaning as much as it engages the body. We must seek out movement that inspires us and infuses us with the desire to move more and grow in our abilities. When movement is also mindfulness, play and a “new stretch” that challenges our habits and how relate to our environment, I believe we stand a better chance at sustaining the behavior patterns that will lead to healthier, happier lives.
I found this way of thinking through some study, including the writings of Life Coach Martha Beck and texts on Yogic Philosophy, but concurrently I was discovering this philosophy through my own experience. In my teens and twenties, I wanted to participate in physically demanding activities, but I approached my body as something that needed to be dominated (mind over matter), and pushed with force of will. That approach only led to more stress, injuries and the belief that I was never good enough. Over time, I learned that my body and mind are equal partners in communication. When I listened to the sensations of the body, the body becomes like a compass - guiding me towards those things that feel healthy and that bring me joy, and leading me away from those things that cause pain and rob me of a feeling of vitality. It seems so obvious now: that which brings enthusiasm should be followed, and that which suppresses your energy is telling you to find another way. This trust and faith in our own internal guidance system seems truly revolutionary in today’s society.
Tell us a little about your personal routine and what you’re currently working on?
My personal routine has been evolving over time as I learn more about myself and the body. For a number of years, I practiced a classical Sadhana, a hatha yoga routine and ritual that incorporated a series of postures followed by breathing techniques and meditation. I still believe there’s great benefit to having a ritual that you perform everyday for yourself. It instills a sense of self-knowing and spiritual growth. Currently however, I maintain general categories of a routine/sadhana but the details are more fluid. I engage in some sort of cleansing routine, I move according to how I feel and what I’m currently working on physically, and I meditate using a variety of breath and mindfulness techniques. Sometimes this all takes place on a mat, and other times it occurs during a walk in the woods.
I am currently delving deeper into awareness and knowledge of body alignment and biomechanics. I used to rely mainly on the exploration and fun of moving the body in flow, or achieving a yoga pose, but I’m beginning to understand how our habitual way of moving may include many compensation patterns due to weakness or inflexibility that can cause injury later on. The details of how to move are becoming more important to me than an end goal. And I’m beginning to enjoy the smaller more subtle shifts and changes in the awareness of my body.
What is your advice to people wanting to improve their movement and mind-body awareness?
Find what feels like play and brings enthusiasm. Follow that.
Eagle view and mouse steps: It’s helpful to have a larger perspective and an overarching goal (like an eagle would have looking down at the landscape from the sky) but focus on the small things - the moment to moment movements and each physical action you take (mouse steps).
Be aware of your body in all that you do, and contemplate how you can make each moment count. For example, if you’re sitting on a couch, ask if your body would benefit more from sitting on the floor; if you’re sitting at a desk, can you take periodic breaks to stand, stretch or walk. How can you add movement to your life in small ways?
Meditate. Become aware of your breath. Pay attention to the sensations of your body.
What class do you teach at Hanuman Health club and what do you hope to bring to the students?
I teach movement and mobility classes based on Mov Nat at 8am on both Mondays and Fridays.
In my classes we’ll explore and refine the locomotive and manipulative skills that are in our nature such as crawling, sitting, standing, running, jumping, climbing, lifting, carrying, throwing, etc. Along the way, we’ll discover how breath, yoga, mindfulness and alignment can assist in unlocking our capabilities. Each class will explore a few of these techniques and whether we’re in the gym or outside in the parks, we’ll play with and discover how our capabilities help us interact with our environment by negotiating and overcoming obstacles.
I hope to bring to the students new sense of play and curiosity toward movement, and a deeper sense of connection to their environment. I hope students will discover a new way of looking at the world around them: that the environment is not something from which they are separate and that the whole world is their playground.
Elaborate a bit more on the idea of adult play and why it’s important to implement that into a workout context.
Play connects us to our childlike selves - our true nature before it may have been suppressed by societal pressures. Play reconnects us to what brings us joy and allows us to hear our internal compass guiding us toward our best life. Play heals our relationship between our own bodies and minds and also helps develop connection to others. It is actually through play that we do our deepest learning and best growth.
How do you stay balanced and centered living in a place like NYC?
I take time to retreat. I have a daily ritual of some type of meditation that helps me feel stillness. I connect with nature in the parks on a daily basis. I walk barefoot as much as possible to both connect to the ground and as a reminder to be true to myself. These commitments to treat myself daily with stillness, solitude, nature, and connection with self allow me to move through this beautiful, vibrant, and sometimes hectic and stressful city with more presence and peace.
Absolutely incredible. What role has natural movement played in your life?
At this point, Natural Movement is guiding my life. It is healing my body, helping me move through the world, and has become much of what I wish to help others discover.
Thank you, Patrick!
Want to take class with Patrick?
Mondays & Fridays at 8am