"I love that it is a small, consistent commitment I can make to ground myself in these strange times." Victoria C.
I love this testimonial from a student who has been taking the mini-flow classes. It speaks to something that is vitally important these days of much-reduced physical activity, and contact with others.
Here is another part of her email: "So glad you started this mini-membership. It has been a life saver, honestly."
I wanted to share a few things that helped me recognize the importance of small consistent commitments. Recently I listened to an interview with Dr. Daniel Leiberman. He is a professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard and author of the book " EXERCISED: The science of physical activity, rest and the pursuit of health. (Watch this 11 minute video where he debunks common myths about exercise) Dr. Leilberman touches upon a few important things in this video and book that are important for us to take note of. For one thing, he doesn't agree with the idea that sitting is the new smoking. We shouldn't blame the chair, he says, we should look at what we are doing during those times we are not sitting. He says that even getting up to visit the bathroom has a positive effect on our bodies, and as such he encourages us to not stay stationary for too long and to make sure when we are not sitting we engaged in positive, fun movement. (yeah, like a mini flow class!). He also points out that when we get older we need to devote more time to exercise, not less. His research on hunter-gatherer societies shows that the elders of the communities do not go off and play mahjong when they "retire"- they continue to actively gather, working towards the well-being of their families (the children and grandchildren). They remain an active participant in the families and comunity. We are in fact the only species that lives to be grandparents, and that evolution did not happen just for the sake of sending off birthday checks and congratulatory cards and kisses. The physical activity of the "gathering" prevents grandma and grandpa from being vulnerable to disease and experiencing the negative effects of aging. And it does the same for us too, even if we are not grandparents or running to Costco to fulfill our kids needs!
About 6 years ago,when I was in my late 40's, my physical activity level dropped. I no longer had time to take asana classes or move around much outside of teaching a class. I know most people think that I am constantly doing asana, but the truth is while I do practice yoga everyday, it usually does not include asana (poses). So back then I was doing a lot of sitting for meditation, and jumping in to demonstrate a pose here and there in a class (probably the worst thing to do!) but not much more. I started to realize, the few times that I did get to take an asana class, that my body was getting weaker and I was losing range of motion. I had been under the delusion that my body would continue to be sustained by all the previous years of yoga and karate I had done. But by the time I got to like 52, this was obviously not the case any longer. The biggest wake up call was when I started to zoom yoga classes and I had to do asana while talking! Gulp, gulp, pant, pant... The random aches and pains, stiffnesses and loss of energy I experienced as I climbed through the 4th decade to my 5th started to make sense. I simply was not doing enough exercise and my body was aging in not such a graceful way. Since doing the mini-flows, which now means I am doing asana every day but one, I am happy to find my strength and suppleness returning. Is it what it was in my 30's? No. But it's far better than it was last year at this time.
Now almost a year into the pandemic I am hearing from more and more people that they are getting stiff, weak, parts of their bodies are cranky, and their energy levels and mental states are not as robust and positive as they were 1 or 2 years ago. Given the personal experience I shared above and the myths of exercise that we have all bought into, I am not at all surprised that people are not making the connection between what is happening to their bodies and how they are using, or better yet, not using them. It is a worthwhile consideration to use our resources investing in what worked before such as exercise, yoga and other forms of self-care. We can seek medical testing and intervention, just to find that even the conditions that do require medical intervention are going to be enhanced with self-care, especially as it will lower your stress levels and improve your immune system. Or we can sit it out and let it all slide. After all, you are getting old, right? And this is what we believe getting old looks and feels like.
I don't think it is ever too late to decide you are going to take the path of action. We can all start up again somewhere and at any time. If you have sat out for a while, know you are not going to come back in where you left off. While that may be frustrating, embarrassing, demoralizing or however you want to label it, it's not a good enough excuse for staying inactive. Yoga teaches us to appreciate this present moment, so if you come back to the mat out of shape, stiff and unable to keep up, remember these words of Pema Chödrön "As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion.”
(If figuring out how to join back in seems daunting, drop me a line. I am happy to try to give you some direction. Even if it is not with a yoga class, I may have an idea how you can invest in your well being again.)