Friday, February 27, 2009

Variety of Movement

Life requires movement. At a minimum: breath and circulation. Optimally: continual development. Lack of movement results in stagnation, illness, and injury.

We need to move. But what if, like me, you aren’t a born athlete or even very coordinated? I loathed PE class as a child, which only highlighted my physical ineptitude and caused constant embarrassment. The worst humiliation was the annual Presidential Fitness Challenge, which consisted of a bent arm hang (my spindly arms couldn’t hold me up two seconds), sit ups (I could do a couple), the 40 yard dash (picture skinny, pale arms and legs flailing wildly), and my nemesis, the 600 yard dash. (Dash, ha!, I was lucky to finish limping across the finish line with a stitch in my side a full 15 minutes after everyone else.)

I am so thankful that fitness has a broader definition today. Without yoga, belly dance, undulation, and of course, Hellerwork Structural Integration, I would still be awkward and unhealthy. Today’s emphasis on fitness also involves “the core,” an unknown idea 30 years ago.

Move regularly and vigorously to keep your heart, lungs, lymph, muscles, and even your brain healthy. If you haven’t already found a way of moving that fills your body-mind with joy, try something new to exercise different muscles and avoid stagnation. Here are some types of holistic exercise that you may find pleasurable and effective.

Nia. This low-impact aerobic program combines jazz and modern dance with low impact martial arts, yoga, and healing arts techniques.

Tai Chi. Don’t let the flowing movements of Tai Chi fool you into thinking it’s not beneficial. Slow movements use more core muscles and counteract the stress we often feel. Quigong is different than Tai Chi, but offers similar benefits.

Ecstatic Dance. You can put your favorite music on the stereo and dance ecstatically around your living room. Another option is a group gathering with world music that starts at a mellow pace and gradually builds up to high energy. Everyone is encouraged to move in a way that feels good and disregard the way they look.

5 Rhythms. Gabrielle Roth says that she likes to “drown out” our self-critical voices with “the beat.” Her 5 rhythms practice includes flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. I was first introduced to the 5 Rhythms in my Hellerwork training and I find it applicable in everything from typing to jogging.

How about creating your own favorite form of exercise? What do you love? If volleyball, tap dance, and tae bo are your thing, put them together every once in a while for a new type of exercise, all your own.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Your Body

Few people truly love their bodies. We usually have more criticism for them than admiration, even though they make our lives possible—even pleasurable.

When you look in the mirror, what’s the first thing you think? It’s typical to say, “I look too fat.” Or “I need to lose __ pounds.”

Then we get into specific flaws. My breasts are too small. My hips are too large. Look at that flab. And my neck. What to do about those wrinkles? And that cellulite, ugh!

It continues with criticism about our bodies’ function. It’s not strong enough or flexible enough or energetic enough or fast enough.

How many negative comments do we make about our bodies for every positive one?

What’s ironic is that the mind is making all these nasty “observations,” as though it is the body’s fault. But what part of us decides to work nine hours a day and leave no time for exercise or healthy eating? It’s the mind, of course!

No wonder there’s an epidemic of internal conflict that shows up as lethargy and dis-ease, including immune system disorders, depression, and chronic pain. Since the mind and body can’t get a divorce, it’s time for some serious counseling.

Here’s a start. Give gratitude to your body for everything it does. Let it make some decisions in your life. You might be surprised that it wants to swim, dance, or play. If given the choice, your body will naturally lose weight, be stronger and more flexible.

Next time when you look in the mirror, send your body some love. Find ten good things about it before you allow a criticism to creep up. It truly is amazing—and it is one of the best parts of you!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Looking for a Sensual Valentine's Gift?

Valentine’s Day is about love, not material things, so get your sweetie what he or she really wants—a more sensuous you. You don’t need to go shopping. Sensuality doesn’t come from cologne, Victoria’s Secret or poetry. It’s being more comfortable in your own skin, so you can connect intimately.

How do you get more sensuous?
1. Slow down from a hurried everyday pace into the slow-motion rhythm of a tango dancer making an entrance. Let go of any movements that feel programmed or robotic. Saunter.
2. Pay attention to the details of everything: yourself, your mate, your environment, even when (or maybe especially when) you are dropping your clothes in the laundry basket.
3. Move like you are being admired; highlight your attributes and strike a pose every now and then. Add a flourish to routine activities.

Here are two fun undulation exercises to get you in the mood.

For Ladies: Snake Arms
1. Stand with your feet comfortably apart and flexible knees.
2. Lean to one side. As you lean, reach your arm out to that same side.
3. Come back to center. Move from your spine first; draw your body toward the opposite side and reach with the other arm.
4. Take minute to sway from side to side, remembering the tips for sensuality. Slow down, pay attention to the details, and move like you are being admired.
5. Now that your spine is flowing, add to the arm movement. As you lean to the left, reach with your left arm and raise it up with your bent elbow higher than your softly bent wrist so that your fingers point to the floor.
6. When you lean to the right, the right arm reaches and raises elbow first, as your left arm drops gradually, with the elbow leading arm and wrist bent so that the fingers point to the ceiling.
7. Let your spine and shoulders roll with the movements, all the way through your neck and out the top of your head, but be careful of whiplash with your neck.
8. As you get more comfortable with this movement, spread your feet farther apart so that your body can sway further to each side.

Especially for Men: Tailbone Penmanship
(Teach your man this and you’ll both be happy!)
1. Get on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hip joints.
2. Warm up your body for a minute. Move your hips, back, and shoulders.
3. Pretend your tailbone is a laser pointer that sends a beam of red light to the floor between your ankles.
4. Draw a cursive letter “a” with your laser pointer. Take your time and try to smooth out the curves.
5. Go through the alphabet from “a” to “z.” Try to initiate most of the movement from your pelvis, rather than your legs, so your hips swivel on your thigh bones and nudge your spine from side to side.
6. Coordinate the movement of your tail and spine to create more flexibility in your low back.
7. Write “I Love You!”

What you do next is up to you.

**Both exercises are excerpted from Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation, the audio version is Undulation Exercises.