Sunday, April 29, 2012

"What's that you say, body-of-mine? Moderation?"

The other day I took a 3-hour master class with yoga teacher Bryan Kest.  It was a great experience which helped me to reframe a little bit of my perspective on whole-being wellness.  I wouldn't say that anything about my perspective really changed, but the way he presented ideas and philosophies helped to grow my vocabulary for this kind of stuff.  It also made me think that this philosophy informs the self care I discuss here and is tremendously important to it, yet I don't think that I address directly enough all the time.

Bryan focused a lot on the concept of moderation, even in terms of how far to move into a stretch when in a yoga pose.  He talks of reaching a point where you are enjoying a stretch, but not trying to tie yourself into a pretzel just to get "further" or to "advance your practice."  You don't need fancy yoga terms and poses for this to be a relevant concept, but I don't think I emphasize it enough.

When addressing any self-care, the idea is to stimulate the body's own healing response.  If you go too hard at it, the body will respond as though your self care is damaging the body (and it might be, if you're not gentle).  Logic dictates that you don't want to push the body into that kind of a stress response.  That's not to say that you shouldn't feel a stretch, or that you shouldn't ever experience any discomfort during self massage.  You just need to pay attention, and stop where it feels "right."

Listening to one's own body is easier for some and nearly impossible for others.  If you feel disconnected from your body, then I suggest a yoga practice because there is certainly a meditative element of it, which can allow for a deeper connection and better communication with your own body.  Just check the rest of your life's baggage at the start of the practice (or any self-care if you want to improve that physical self-awareness).

Here's where I depart from Bryan Kest, a little, though.  I do believe in pushing myself sometimes.  The key is "sometimes."  Every moment of every day, I have those conversations with my body, and when it's up to it, I like to go hard in my workouts.  Some days, I decide to do no workout, or take a walk, or do yoga, or even take a bath and just do some stretching.  It all depends on what the body is calling for in the moment.

I have lived the benefits of pushing myself when I'm up to it - I find that my flexibility, strength endurance and (perhaps most importantly) movement patterns have all improved in real life.  I've also enjoyed the benefits of listening to my body and moderating my activities.  This benefit is that I've not suffered any major injuries. Sure I get sore, and have some small boo-boos, but no injuries.

So, next time your body says that you're not going to revolve that triangle pose today, that it's not feeling strong enough in the core to do safe backsquats, then lay off it.  You have the rest of your life to keep trying those things - IF you moderate and keep your body ready to go another day.  There is no do-over after you've pushed too hard, too fast, too deep, too much and injured yourself.  But you will always have a do-over when you decide to back off, and save the herculean effort for the next time.