Reflections On Movement as Self Care

Reflections on movement as self care:

It's much simpler than you think.

The only rule: Don't stop.

In other words: Keep moving.

Not in a frantic or obsessive or punishing way.

Move steadily. Move with patience and presence. Soft persistence.

Be at once invigorated and relaxed.

The golden ticket: Find the place where effort and ease meet. Live there often.

Play your edges from time to time, but mostly hold the center, find moderation. Learn to be comfortable in moderation. This is an act of rebellion in a culture addicted to extremes and novelties.

You must move every day. You must move a lot. You must make every shape you can make. How many shapes can you make today? How many times can you make all those shapes today?

Because bad ideas come from those who sit still, who stare at screens all day.

Affirm your life through movement. Refresh your brain. See things new. Breathe deeply. Move!

Do some squats. Do some push ups. Learn to climb a tree. Move to music. Take a long walk.

But don’t run a marathon.

Unless running a marathon is the deepest longing in your heart. In that case, do it.

But don't do it because you think you have to in order to prove yourself or in order to make yourself worthy or because you believe that this thing ~ this marathon or whatever it is ~ is the thing you must to to be healthy and vital.

There are so many ways to care for your body with movement, but the essential rule is that you must like what you are doing. If it does not bring you joy: Stop. Find another way.

Do the unglamourous thing. The thing that will not be hailed or recognized. Trade ambition for attention. How does light move, air taste, your sweet one’s smile start? Indulge in the places where meaning is made.

Because you know how your body feels when you tell a lie: Not right.

It’s May, sweet friends. Don’t forget you are alive.

Reasons To Be Fit #35

My car got hit in the middle of the night.

When I took my car in to the body shop for its estimate, the receptionist said, "When you drop off your car for its work, we will call the rental car company to come pick you up."

"I can walk to the rental car place," I said.

"Are you sure? It's a far distance."

"I've got it," I said.

When the rental car company called to confirm my reservation the guy said, "...so we'll come pick you up once you drop your car off at the body shop."

"I'm going to walk," I said.

"Are you sure? It's like a mile and a half."

"I got it."

When I dropped the car off at the body shop the receptionist asked, "Are you sure you want to walk?"

"I'm sure."

"OK..."

So I walked. And the cherry blossoms bloomed their fullest. The air smelled its sweetest.

When I arrived a the rental company, the man at the desk asked, "How was your workout?"

"It was a mile and half walk," I said.

"Wow! That's a lot."

When you are fit, a mile and half is not a lot.

When you are fit, you never pass up an opportunity to walk amongst the blooms.

Strong Body ♥ Strong Mind ♥ Strong Heart: April 2017

The cherry blossoms have finally bloomed in Seattle. I have spent every day of the past two weeks walking under their flirtatious, fluffy canopies. I am smitten.

I have also spent every day of the past two weeks preparing for an upcoming workshop that I'll be teaching in two weeks at Seattle Yoga Arts. It’s a workshop about movement and breath and creativity and philosophy. It’s also about how to build a strong butt and strong core.

Here's an excerpt from the handouts and a sneak peak at the posters I’ve created for the event:

~

I was introduced to yoga not through my body, but through my mind.

At age 9 my stepfather was forced to leave his hometown of Vienna due to impending Nazi occupation. He and his 5 year old sister went together, without their parents, to a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language.

Thus began the journey that would consume the rest of my stepfather’s life. He became a spiritual seeker: How can there be such evil in the world? How does one find joy in this world? What is the soul? What is the divine?

He and my mother met when my mother was in the midst of an existential journey of her own: Coming to terms with the oppression and shame associated with her childhood religion, with the death of her first husband, with the realities of being a single mother.

My stepfather brought books when he moved in with us. Books about Buddha and Jesus. Books about Tao and Chi. Books by Hafiz and Emily Dickinson and Carl Jung and Ram Dass.

When I was 13 I slipped a slim paperback off his shelf. I took the book to my bedroom and I read. As I did, every cell in my body vibrated the way cells do when you encounter something that cuts straight to the truth, the real truth, the eternal truth.

This book, entitled simply “YOGA,” was not about how to perform physical postures, how to twist my spine and loop my limbs. Rather this book was about how to remain connected to myself, my divine nature, while living in a human body in a world that would have me forget my soul.

I was transfixed and I was forever changed.

When I was 16 I began practicing yoga asana, and over decades my relationship to this physical part of yoga has been capricious: I have been in turns enamoured, devoted, fanatic, mystified, bored, hurt, humbled, annoyed, indifferent.

On the other hand, my relationship to yoga as a philosophical framework, as a state of being, a way of living and moving through all of life, has only deepened, steadily, consistently.

Strong Body ♥ Strong Mind ♥ Strong Heart: March 2017

When I was 10 years old I moved all my furniture, piece by piece, by myself ~ dresser, desk, mattress, headboard, mirror, bookshelves, books ~ down a narrow flight of steep stairs into the huge basement that I had convinced my mother to let me turn into my bedroom.

When my mom got home from work and saw what I had done, she was perplexed and amazed. How had my little body managed to maneuver those big, cumbersome pieces?

The answer: I just did it. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t question my capabilities. I held my vision strong and put my body to work.

That afternoon imprinted me with a deep feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment and taught me that vision, determination and physical strength were essential skills for me to cultivate if I wanted to be able take action on my own behalf and create the reality that mattered to me.

As I stretched out across my mattress preparing for sleep in my new bedroom that night, my confidence quickly dissolved. The basement seemed so far away from the rest of my family. There were sounds I didn’t recognize. There were windows that lead straight into the dark, forested backyard. I felt lonely and defenseless.

I didn’t sleep well.

The next night I put off going down to my bedroom for as long as I could, until my body was so tired that sleep was inevitable.

On the third night I heard a large wolf-bear high fiving a centaur-dragon at a monster burglar spy party taking place just outside the wall where the head of my bed sat. I was sure of it. I didn’t sleep at all.

On the fourth night, when it came time to make my way to bed, my body went numb. I felt paralyzed. I mustered up every ounce of courage I had and mumbled under my breath to my mom, “It’s so far away down there.”

She understood instantly all the meaning behind that simple statement. With the kind of gentleness that only a mother can give she said, “You don’t have to sleep down there anymore if you don’t want to.”

That night I slept on the floor of my old bedroom. The next day I moved all my furniture ~ piece by piece ~ back upstairs. I slept so well that night.

Vision, determination and physical strength keep possibility alive.

Vulnerability, uncertainty and allowing grand plans to crumble into the sea can do that too.

When was the last time you felt strong, dear friends?

Reasons To Be Fit #33

You know to let yourself simply be as you are. When you are tired, you allow yourself to walk slowly, not measuring yourself against those passing you by. When you are uninspired, you stop, breathe deeply, look around. It's ok. Winter becomes spring always. Until it doesn't. It's ok. When you are fit, you know that the only things worth striving for are those that soften your edges and coax your heart open. And the limbs on those trees that grow straight out over the lake.

Strong Body ♥ Strong Mind ♥ Strong Heart: February 2017

The woman who walks the black cocker spaniel has soft silver ringlets. Those curls catch sunlight. They bounce like toddlers on a trampoline, giggling, tumbling across her forehead, into her eyes. She sweetly shoos them from her lashes. They are not dismayed. They dance around her ears.

Her skin is milk. Her cheeks are peonies. Her eyes are celestite globes.

The woman who walks the black cocker spaniel is 60 years old at least, maybe 70.

We pass each other once a week, maybe twice. We smile. We stop and talk. She is engaging, powerful, bright.

She mentions that she would like employ my coaching services. She is active, she says, but would like to increase her fitness. I ask what she wants to improve, hoping to hear something about increasing leg strength for a trek through Nepal or upper body strength to support the hours she spends moving paint across wall-sized canvases.

She places her hand on her abdomen and tells me she would like to “get rid of this stuff around my middle.” My heart sinks like it does every time a woman asks me to help her “fix” the appearance of a part of her body.

Beauty is in the eye of beholder and health is the result of many factors mingling together to create a hospitable circumstance for life to thrive. There is not one way to be a beautiful, healthy human being. Often what we perceive to be beautiful and accept to be healthy has more to do with specific cultural preferences than with objective, biological markers.

I struggle knowing that my career is associated with an industry that perpetually diminishes the potential of women of all ages by keeping them hyper-focused on the shape of their bodies.

What about the shape of our souls? What about the depth of our character? Aren’t there more important, more pressing places for us to direct our finite attention and resources?

The journey we take toward greater fitness is a noble one only when it enhances our vitality so that we can get on with performing the real work of life with greater presence and potency. And in order for our fitness pursuits to increase our vitality, they must be initiated from a mindset of grace, gratitude and love.

AN INVITATION

Ladies and gentlemen (because I know that men struggle with body acceptance, too, it just looks and sounds a little different than for women) I invite you to join me this February to build and strengthen your attitude of grace, gratitude and unconditional love toward your body.

Will you join me in writing a love letter to your body?

  • Dear Body, my favorite thing about you is…
  • Dear Body, you really amazed that one time when you…
  • Dear Body, I’m sorry that I…
  • Dear Body, one thing I would like to know more about you is…

Complete these sentences with a few words or an entire paragraph. Write a short story or a poem. Take a photograph or paint a picture. Or simply reflect. Do what inspires you and, if you are inclined, share it with me. Send me an email or tag me on social media.

I look forward to receiving your responses and sharing mine as well.

As always,

Amanda

Hello From The Institute of Moves, Muscles & Eternal Optimism

"Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no results, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul."

I was twenty-two when my first yoga teacher shared this quote from the French writer and philosopher Simone Weil with me.

I immediately committed it to memory. Sixteen years later, I still recite it often to myself, to my friends, to my clients.

Meet Polle. When she came to me two years ago her body was weak and in pain due to a myriad of injuries, traumas and surgeries that she has experienced and undergone over the past several decades of her life. In the early stages of working together, even the simplest of breathing exercises could trigger pain.

Last week she deadlifted this bar for 3 sets of 10.

Do you understand? It has taken her two years to be able to lift this weight easily and without pain.

TWO YEARS!

She could have given up countless times along the way and nobody would have blamed her.

She could have concluded, "This is just the reality of my body. It's not going to get better."

She could have stopped and made do.

I, too, could have given up countless times and nobody would have blamed me.

"I can't help you," I could have told her.

But she didn't. I didn't. We didn't.

Every week she showed up and met her body as it was. She was present and did what she could. When she could do no more, she stopped.

Every week I accepted her as she was. I offered exercises. If those didn't work, I offered something else. I tried every trick up my sleeve and then had to learn more.

We kept at it. Week after week, year after year.

"Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no results, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul."

Keep moving, friends. Do not lose heart. Fix your gaze on your goals even as they appear impossibly far away. Look there. Go toward there. And then keep going.