Today I’m pondering a statement I hear often when discussing yoga, health, wellness with family and friends…
“But mellow exercise is just not enough.”
“Enough for what” is probably a pertinent follow up question. If you exercise for health reasons, weight loss, or fun you’re attitude probably differs, for weight loss get the best results by using this leptitox solution.(It’s good to check in and remember why you do what you do once in a while) I’m talking about this attitude that it’s not worth it to exercise the body if you’re not a sweaty mess afterward or something along those lines. I can relate to the need to move and sweat. It’s good for us, mostly. But I think we get hung up on this “beat myself into submission” kind of exercise attitude. Bikram yoga, triathalons, bootcamp, crossfit, that sort of thing. Guess what? The bodies we have right now are different than the ones we had at 18. We only get one body and it’s constantly changing and it is constantly getting older and moving towards death! It cracks me up how much this thought really freaks people out. Doing 2 hours of running, cycling or hot yoga a day is fine when you’re in your 20’s, but will that really be nourishing and helpful in an older, more lived in body? I find it fun to challenge myself and see what I can do with this bag of bones of mine. To watch my body literally get stronger, fitter and more flexible as I age with yoga is pretty incredible. But after giving birth, being sick, injured, sidetracked, I’m not sure the hardest, sweatiest workout is what we often need although it’s often what people describe when they say they need to get back in the saddle.
Yet, where do we draw the line between healthy challenge and being too harsh on ourselves? I want to make sure I’m listening to my body accurately. I want to make sure I’m challenging myself in a healthy way. Sometimes it says, “I can’t move, I don’t feel good” when really it means “I don’t want to move, I want to be lazy.” Other times it says, “I want to become an endurance athlete, do 108 push ups, and only eat broccoli” and I wonder what it really means then. It feels good to control one of the few things we can control, ourselves, to burn the anxious, nervous energy many of us live with, but my inner yoga teacher wishes people would be a little nicer to themselves, without promoting laziness and avoidance. I love the post exercise endorphins, feeling strong, flexible, and comfortable in my own skin, but why do I cause myself injury? Why do I beat myself up mentally for letting life get the best of me sometimes? How do I deal with the inevitable injuries life will impose on me in a healthy way? How will I make sure to stay on my own health wagon and what will that look like in reality?
I see lots of bodies on the mat as I teach yoga each week. Some glow. Some shake and suffer. Some come back for more and some don’t. It all comes back to learning to listen to our bodies in a healthy way, to tuning in to the subtle, to remembering why we do what we do. I think it’s more important to create the habit of doing something that nourishes you on a regular basis, and then phase two can be stepping up the challenge. Many of us are inconsistent and then forceful and intense. We really like to avoid the “long way” in our culture or sticking with something we suck at. I realize doing something new kind of sucks for a while. So does falling of the wagon of fitness. But I’m sorry, I think doing mellow yoga or exercise is ok. It’s a great place to start if you’ve been inactive for a while. It’s a great way to balance stressful work days or workouts or phases in life. Life beats me up enough without me adding to the fire. Stop trying to skip the baby steps, perhaps? It doesn’t mean you’re a wimp. And don’t worry, I’ll still make you sweat and shake on the yoga mat. Right before I force you to be nice to yourself in savasana.