Movement of the human body is one of the greatest joys that a human can experience. We are given an amazing machine at birth, a vehicle that carries us through the journey of life. I read a recent estimate that stated if a human body was to be given a price tag the total cost would be over $1 trillion, and that’s just for the hardware. The software, the human mind, is potentially worth twice that much. As children we are innately aware of how pleasurable movement is. If you’ve been around children from birth to approximately age 12 that you know how hard it is to keep them from moving, fidgeting, running, jumping, and climbing. No healthy kid ever goes a day without doing at least one or more of these activities instinctively in an unplanned way.
Somewhere in adolescence some children begin to develop an awareness of how they’re perceived by others. There becomes a type of self-consciousness based on body image and how they think others view them. Kids buy into labels, given by themselves and others, and these labels often influence how much they are willing to move their bodies and experience the joy of movement. The “dancer” will continue to dance, the “runner,” will continue to run and the “athlete” will continue to pursue athletics. For others the joy of movement dies, as the adolescent accepts, and in some cases embraces, self identification as a “nerd,” “computer geek,” or video “gamer.” Movement is inconsistent with these labels.
If you are older, early 20s and beyond let’s say, you may have your own labels and self identification that keeps you from experiencing the joy of movement even if you were once an athlete. One hint that you may be in this category is if you use the phrase “used to” to describe your relationship to the movement. “I used to be a dancer,” “I used to play baseball,” “I used to work out,” “I used to be_________ .” These statements are usually followed with the word BUT and some rationalization or justification as to why we no longer participate in these activities. These stories that we tell ourselves even appear valid. But, who are we telling them to, why are we telling them, and who pays the price for these stories? My hunch is that the answer to each of those questions is YOU. These stories have robbed you from one of life’s greatest joys, MOVEMENT!
The biggest barrier to regaining this joy is the perception that will be painful, either to the body or the psyche. It doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be. If you think about it, movement and stretching are instinctive. What’s the first thing you did this morning as you sat on the edge of your bed? Yeah, you stretched. For far too many people that is the only stretching or movement they do, and the aches and pains that they perceive because of lack of movement become their justification for not moving. “I couldn’t do that because it will hurt and to be painful,” is one of the lies we tell ourselves. The reality is that things hurt and are painful because you don’t move.
Movement’s physical benefits are well documented. Increased flexibility, joint health, and suppleness of muscle, are all well-known. Additional benefits that are often ignored are those that link the mind and body. People who experienced the joy of movement on a regular basis tend toward mental acuity, increased self esteem, and better outlooks on life. There is a mind body reason for this. Because their bodies feel better, their thinking and reasoning are better. They are known for having a “spring in their step,” and that physical sharpness that they have is mirrored by their mind. They have confidence in their bodies and this translates to mental confidence and optimism.
Human beings are genetically wired to be athletes. This doesn’t mean that you should be playing flag football into your 80s, it means you should be doing some activity daily that keeps you in touch with the joy of movement. Solo activities are best. Having a few things that you do ON A DAILY BASIS that are within a degree of difficulty that you can handle can keep you in touch with the basic human need to move. A combination of things you do alone, such as stretching in bed gently in the morning before rising, a brief routine done after a daily walk, relaxing stretching done in bed before sleep, all are examples of habits that can keep you in touch with the joy of movement.
These movement activities need to be separated from more formal activities such as going to the gym, pool, or some type of class. While these are good, they may be too structured to give you pure joy of movement. Formal activities, in the presence of others, tends to create competition and comparisons, feelings that may have led you to a negative view of movement in the first place. The real joy comes from the spontaneity of movement that you enjoyed as a child. Find activities that you do on a regular basis, and occasionally do spontaneously. These activities are not meant to be competitive, they are meant to be joyful. Any pain experienced means you have reached the limit for that particular movement and are at the back off point.
Find things that are fun, or at least have the potential to be fun. It’s ideal if you have activities that you can do standing, in bed, and on the floor or ground. Mix them up each day using spontaneity as your guide. Don’t record, write down, or put any pressure on yourself. The intention here is to momentarily get out of your head, into your body, and experience the pure joy of movement like you did as a child.
Remember, you are genetically wired to live an athletic life. You are the lucky owner of trillion dollar machine. Get that machine out of the garage and give it a spin!
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