I once met a woman who asserted that any gym equipment – treadmills, ellipticals, or any other machine – simply weren’t natural, they should be avoided at all costs. She vowed that natural movement meant walking, dancing, and everyday movement. As someone who got a little too enthusiastic while doing step aerobics and squatting with heavy weights at The Firm in college, hence my sensitive knees and need to focus on alignment and mindful movement to keep my body and mind engaged and healthy, I do praise a rooted, barefoot, mindful movement practice that’s simple, fulfilling and effective. But….
Just Move It (sustainably) ~ I’m for a well-rounded, mindful movement practice that’s going to a) get bodies moving in a safe manner wherever that might be and b) make people feel better. Sometimes, many times, that happens on a man-made machine instead of frolicking and dancing through a grassy field of wildflowers. If going to the gym and climbing a hill on an elliptical give you a more open mind and stronger body – along with cross training like stretching and other resistance training, of course – I think that should be the focus. The all-or-nothing trends and approaches that continuously bombard us through fitness trends and plans, food, and through other lifestyle factors as a whole aren’t sustainable.
Sensations, Feelings and Body Scans ~ That said, whether you get your groove-on to Push-It on a treadmill, or whether you flow through yoga to Trevor Hall’s The Lime Tree, or you sit in silence gazing at your backyard oak tree, pay attention to your body’s signals while you do it. Pay attention to where you hold tension, how hard you’re breathing (or holding your breath). Pay attention to a tight hip or a sharp pain in your knee. Pay attention to the mind chatter. Notice where you feel free, open, strong, expansive. Do a body scan, and write or color about what you discover. These messages and sensations open a plethora of information for your whole self in terms of body-based and feelings-based alignment during and after your movement session.
Why pay attention? The body and mind work as a whole, not parts. ~ You might have read the articles that say “you only need 8 minutes of cardio a day (and buy this dvd).” Or “10,000 steps a day keeps the doctor away.” Or “sitting all day then working out for 30 minutes is not enough”. Again, blanket statements and extremes are simply blanket statements and extremes. And, they make us crazy and keep us blind to the more lovely parts of life. Like plowing through an x-number mile run “so you can eat” is an extreme, unsustainable relationship that keeps you in an obsessive, submissive-to-diet-among-other-nonsense-culture cycle. Your mind is connected to your body, your body is connected to the way you live and thrive, the way you live and thrive (or don’t) writes the stories of your life. (How you move is how you live.) Movement is a practice. Connecting your body, mind and heart is a practice. Your body is not an ornament you get out to decorate then put in the closet when you’re over or bored with it. Fitness or exercise or even physical therapy for an injury is not a utopia you eventually reach and hang up your hat. It can work together brilliantly if you allow it.
No Quick Fixes. We have to peel back the layers. ~ Start literally from the ground up with a) alignment-based postures and exercises to practice body awareness that can be taken anywhere at anytime and b) sensation-based mindful movements that serve as a parallel and bridge to connect your body, mind and heart.
New Year’s Resolution Movement/Exercise/Fitness Plan??? ~ Move your body and cross train with various exercises or movement systems, tune up your alignment (aka get to know your bones and muscles and nuances), color and write body scans – it sounds like a lot. But, these are really simple puzzle pieces that you learn and build upon. Make mental notes, or use your phone to take notes about how your body feels. Find a solid yoga teacher and/or all-levels yoga class so you can be around a variety of people and bodies. Start where you are (even if it’s the sofa or bed), and start noticing where you desire to move, how you desire to move. Maybe that has nothing to do with your body but more with your life. There’s always a way to connect the two, and that’s what makes this movement approach so fascinating and fulfilling. It’s an organic process that has enough science-based alignment peppered with a feelings-based approach which produces a unique and sustainable and satisfying movement practice for All of You. And, it will deepen and change as you deepen and change and grow.
Stay tuned for more on “How you move is how you live.”