It is my belief that a flexible, supple body is the first step to total harmony of mind, body and spirit. All of us are born into this world with a super high degree of flexibility and range of motion, which as children allows us to explore the world freely by simply moving about. Indeed this is our most natural state as human beings existing in a physical world.
Over time though as we adapt to life in a society where the vast majority of our waking lives is spent in the sitting position, our bodies in turn become accustomed to this lifestyle, and as time passes our muscles, joints and connective tissue become stiff from disuse and our range of motion gradually decreases over time until we are only able to move around in a limited number of positions without experiencing pain.
Many believe that this gradual loss of mobility and range of motion is merely a natural part of the aging process and can’t really be helped… however nothing could be further from the truth!
With the discovery of neuroplasticity completely overturning what we thought to be true about the brain and our capacity to learn new things as adults, we are also discovering that the body is capable of remarkable transformations, even as adults!
Flexibility is the Beginning
Being flexible is about more than just being able to move freely through space and enjoy our world as human beings; our ability to move and stretch our bodies affects our emotions, mood and outlook on life. When we are stressed out, we tense up, our muscles contract, our breathing becomes shallow and we physically feel restricted and limited. Being in this state perpetually (because of a stressful job, or other societal constraints that cause stress for us) means that we are subconsciously training the body and mind that this is the “normal” default setting for daily life. This begins a negative feedback loop where because of stress our bodies and minds become rigid and tense, and this in turn causes more stress as we are unable to move about freely which can lead to injuries, which leads to more stress.
A rigid, inflexible body leads to a rigid, inflexible mind, and vice versa…
A supple, mobile body frees the mind and spirit
This greatly influences the way we think as well. When we are forced to sit at a desk for hours on end, day after day, our focus becomes narrow and we lose the ability to think creatively. This leads to a poor state of mental health as we are constraining ourselves both physically and mentally, against our nature. This is why the very first step to “living true to our nature”, I believe begins with regaining flexibility and mobility of the body (and the mind as a byproduct of the process).
Yoga, Gymnastics, Pilates... So Many Choices!!
Ok, so we know that flexibility is important, so how do we go about becoming more flexible? Nowadays there are yoga classes offered at nearly every sports club and an infinite number of YouTube videos from gymnasts, Pilates instructors, martial artists, ballet dancers, physical therapists and regular people teaching classes on flexibility and mobility. For motivated self-starters who are disciplined and have the grit necessary to persevere on their own with these classes to regain mobility and flexibility, the search is over.
In reality though the vast majority of people have difficulty in choosing a method that works for them, out of the sea of available choices often becoming overwhelmed even before starting, and for those that do manage to get the ball rolling, consistency quickly becomes an issue as boredom and lack of noticeable progress overtake the initial surge of motivation that got them started.
The reason for this is actually pretty simple though: when you are engaged in an activity like stretching that is not necessarily intrinsically fun and exciting, willpower is required to maintain momentum in the absence of external motivation (an exciting class environment with an instructor highly attentive to the needs of each student) and noticeable progress (if you see yourself actually becoming more flexible you get excited and that in turn spurs you on to keep going)
Ok…so then what do we do?
Basically there are three options:
- Power through it with sheer willpower
- Hire a personal trainer or find someone who will push you to do it
- Find a way that is fun and engaging for you so that you enjoy it
Options 1 and 2 assume that the process is not enjoyable, which is why willpower is needed to get you through to the point where you actually begin to see results, and then transition to doing it on your own, because it is enjoyable. Most of us either are unable, or don’t wish to expend the willpower to continue an unpleasant activity, or don’t have access to a personal trainer to facilitate the process for us.
But there is another way…option 3.
I myself have used willpower to bridge the gap between getting from initial motivation to the point where noticeable progress makes the process self-sustaining. What I learned was that while it can indeed be done with willpower, this is by no means a sustainable approach. By breaking down the process of regaining mobility and flexibility and optimizing for methods that allow for the fastest way to bridge this gap, it becomes accessible to everyone. The key here is not using a “cookie cutter” style of having everyone simply follow the same script, regardless of their level of ability or interest, but instead opting to work on the highest cost-performance elements first and build upon those.
Great!…So how do I do this?
Stay tuned as I will explain this methodology in detail in the next post!