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.

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