A few days ago I went on a walk with a very wise woman. She is a lifelong dancer and yoga teacher who is very in touch with her body. She is training to become a personal trainer and was relaying that she would like to teach clients how to work with their own energy in order to produce positive physical results. She mentioned how she used to beat up on her body to maintain a certain fitness level but realized she could achieve even better results by being kind to it. As former dancers we are both too aware of how perfectionist ideals of how the body should look can get in the way of health, both physical and mental (Black Swan anyone?) and as fellow “babyloss moms” we’ve both experienced losing a child and the rigors of physically healing a postpartum body while simultaneously working on mental healing in the throes of grief.
Everyday I work with people who are coming to terms with where they are at, both physically and mentally. How do we know and then, once we know, accept and work with the fluctuations of energy and health? I’ve worked with people with degenerative diseases, those rebounding after overcoming serious illness or injury, people going through major life changes, and everything in between. In my years as a trainer I can’t recall a single client that has come to me free and clear of physical or mental strain and struggle. I also can’t recall a client feeling or performing the same way, every session, day after day (maybe because I have never worked with a robot? I have however choreographed a dance show with life-size puppets but that’s another story for another post…..)
Since life is anything but static I suppose it makes sense that our bodies and energies are so variable. The most important aspect of any fitness program is to maintain relative flexibility and not just with the physical body. We have to be flexible with what we do and how we do it, day after day, month after month, year after year (and hopefully decade after decade if we are doing it right!). By listening to what our bodies are telling us and consequently working from there we will always be training the right way.
By no means does this equate to letting ourselves off easy. In fact it is much easier to perform the same routine day after day, running through the motions like a hamster on a wheel. It takes work to learn to recognize the bodies cues and even more work to act on them. As much as it might seem at surface level no ones body is telling them to sit on the couch everyday. We are wired to move, though maybe not in the same way everyday or in the way the fitness magazines say we have to. There is not one specific form of movement that “works”. There are many different forms of movement that work in many different ways. There is something for everyone no matter what place or point you are at in life.
By working with instead of against our energy we can find ease in the most vigorous workout and challenge in the most gentle one. We can move in a way that feeds our life rather than detracts from it. We can burn of excess energy when it needs to be drained and increase energy when our fire needs a little stoking. We can work with the body to come to a place of physical balance that leaves us better able to find peace mentally, emotionally, and generally in life.
I often get asked if I miss dancing, in some ways I do but the way I see it I am dancing all the time. I learned in college that “dancing” and “movement” are not very far apart. Movement feels so much better when it comes from the inside out rather than the outside in. A choreographer once told me to “choreograph my life”, I took this to mean figure out what moves you and create a life around it. I hope to on my best days help others do the same. Lately I’ve gotten a serious amount of feedback from my body and often it’s been hard to decipher. Some days my energy leads me to my yoga mat, other days I hit the weights or the road, and often times I do all three. It’s been a crazy dance and I am still learning the steps. Hopefully it works out to something beautiful in the end but for now I will just settle in for the ride.