It continues to amaze and sadden me to hear people proclaim certainty about their inability to do yoga or Pilates even though they have never tried. Or maybe they tried many years ago but are sure that the interim time span has zapped their capacity. The time for these efforts has passed, they reason, it’s pointless to try now. In the next breath, however, I also commonly hear “but I have to do something!” Well, there you have it. You can either spend your time wishing you could do something and lamenting your perceived inability or you could spend that same time actually doing something. Granted, making the effort takes a leap of faith. It requires overcoming fear and venturing into the unknown.
One thing that might help is to remember those times in the past when you did manage to overcome your fears and venture into the unknown. We’ve all had those experiences. Think of a time when you wanted or needed to do something bad enough that you dropped your resistance and moved into it. No matter what the outcome, I think it’s safe to assume that you learned something from that experience. And chances are what actually happened is nothing like what you thought might happen.
Another motivation might be to consider the consequences of doing nothing. You will continue to feel bad about yourself both emotionally and physically. That negativity can produce a downward spiral. The mind-body connection between physical illness and emotional attitude is increasingly well-documented. Yoga and Pilates both work on strengthening that mind-body connection helping you to focus your mind, get to know how your body works and bring body and mind into better alignment. Why let yourself sink into a rut when all you have to do is take that first step in a new direction. The first step is the hardest, but once you take it and begin to move forward your confidence will grow and you may find your attitude changing. After all, others have done it and you can do it, too!
Finally, all of us have friends or neighbors who are doing those things that we wish we could do. I don’t mean your children or grandchildren or anyone who is half your age or pictured in a magazine. But others who are in similar situations to your own. You know who they are. Ask them about their journey. They probably do not have any special powers that you lack. But somewhere along the line they took that leap of faith and tried something new. Is it working for them? Will they support you in your effort to try? Having a system of support is a huge asset when you are trying to make a change in your life. That’s why classes can be so helpful. All the others in the class are working at the same thing. We all need each other to stay on track. Working in a group with the similar goals is powerful. Take advantage of that and let the group’s momentum pull you along.
So I would like to challenge you to try again to make that leap of faith. Take your fear to the limit: what’s the worst that can happen? If you move slowly and thoughtfully, paying attention only to yourself and how you feel, making movements only in a way that works for your body and stopping when you need to you are unlikely to hurt yourself. You may even surprise yourself by finding that it feels good. Maybe you won’t like it. That’s fine. Everyone has to find the form of movement that works best for then. But we all need to move, regardless of age or physically limitations. You’ll never be able to form an opinion until you try.
Hope to see you all in a class soon!
From the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at health.gov, here are just a few proven health benefits of physical activity:
- lower risk of a wide range of chronic conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes;
- improved cognitive function among others.
Some more good news: the health benefits of physical activity are independent of body weight. So it doesn’t matter if you perceive yourself as overweight or underweight. You will still benefit from exercise even if your weight doesn’t change. Frequently I hear people say “I need to lose some weight before I can come to your class”. My advice – come to class whatever your weight, size or physical limitations. There will be a way to adapt the exercise to your physical status whatever that is and your health will benefit. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that if you keep the effort consistent over a period of weeks you will notice changes in your physical abilities and the way your body feels even if you don’t lose weight. You may notice, for example, that your clothes fit better or you may see other changes in your appearance. For many years there has been an ongoing discussion in the fitness industry as to whether it is better to be physically fit and overweight or unfit and thin. My own opinion is that fitness and good health comes in all shapes and sizes. Despite the physical form that our culture may revere as ideal, good health is far more important than measuring up to some myth of perfection. Through the ages and in different cultural contexts there have been many variations in what is viewed as an ideal appearance. Regardless of these fickle and changing perceptions, good health is indisputable. We have all heard the expression “without good health we have nothing.” All you need to do is get sick and you will see the wisdom in that sentiment.
Turns out, too, that you don’t need great amounts of high-intensity activity to experience these benefits. Also, according to studies, the benefits of physical exercise outweigh the risk of injury. It is not necessary to run a marathon or climb Mt. Everest to be healthy. The importance of avoiding inactivity is so critical that even small amounts of exercise can yield significant benefits. Reductions in risk of cardiovascular disease become evident with as little as 150 minutes of physical activity weekly. Two classes per week will give you that much. And even better results can be seen with 200 minutes per week. So add 50 minutes of walking per week (which can be broken down into two 25-minute segments, for example) and you are well on your way to better health, improved mood, reduced stress, enhanced endurance and numerous other improvements in quality of life in general. If you commit to 6 weeks of consistent activity you may find that you actually begin to like it! Make it a part of your life. The benefits will continue to accrue and you may begin to notice a difference in how you feel about yourself. In addition, you will experience improvements in your ability to perform everyday tasks like putting the groceries away and keeping up with your children or grandchildren. The strength, flexibility and balance training provided by yoga and Pilates will also help prevent falls, keep your bones strong, improve your posture and keep your muscles and joints pliable and functioning.
We have so little control over most of the events and circumstances that impact our lives. So it becomes more important than ever to take control of what we can control while we can control it. From that point of view it should be a no brainer to do what you can to improve your health, especially when that involves something as simple as adding more movement to your life. It does involve a daily decision to make that choice. But if you can’t do it for your own benefit, do it for those around you. There lives will also improve by the example you set.