Our bodies are made up of so many parts and systems that it’s almost impossible to think about all of them at once. There are numerous muscles, bones and nerves, but also fluids like blood, lymphatic and spinal. Then there are the energetic systems that enable all of those parts and systems to interact with each other. At the cellular level, there is an entire universe within each of us. If you think about the precision with which everything needs to interact in order to move us, it’s no surprise that sometimes things go wrong. In fact, it’s often more of a wonder that things go right!
Among the goals of both yoga and Pilates is to help us get to know our bodies and really start to pay attention to how the different elements of mind and body work together for optimal movement. “Optimal” is a subjective terms and may mean different things for different bodies, but the more we learn about ourselves, the more we can move toward optimization.
This week I read a great little book called “The RBG Workout”. What is “RBG” you ask? It’s the initials for our Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an inspiration to all of us at any age. Tag line for the book is “How she stays strong and you can too!” Of course, I’m sure she is also blessed with good genes, but she has certainly had physical challenges including two bouts with cancer. The book was written by Bryant Johnson, who has been her personal trainer of almost 20 years. Throughout the book he talks about how tough and strong she is, but also how she progressed during those years. The workout described in the book seems pretty challenging, but Mr. Johnson takes pains to remind readers that it took time and persistence to get her to the point where she can now do the whole workout.
One of the quotes in the book that I especially like is this: “. . . exercise is a great equalizer. A push-up, a squat , a lunge, or a plank doesn’t care who you support or . . . about your race, religion, color, gender or national origin. You may have a powerful job . . . but your body will still have veto power over you. . . . If you don’t use it, you will lose it.” One more reminder that we are mutually dependent on all of those systems described above. We need them, but they need us, too. Taking care of our bodies is no guarantee that things won’t go wrong, but it will certainly improve the odds. And if things go wrong, you’ll be better able to deal with the problems if you’ve made that effort to stay strong, flexible and mobile.
The message here is that it’s never too late to start moving and no matter where you start, you can improve. It might take some time – maybe longer than you thought it would – and there may be moves that will continue to elude you, but if you stick with it you will make progress. As I’ve often said throughout these blog posts, the hard part is starting. Once you start you’re already making progress. After that, the only obstacle standing in your way is you. In her foreword to the book, Justice Ginsburg talks about the demands of her job. Yet she prioritizes her workout. When the time comes, she sets everything aside and maintains her commitment to her body and, ultimately, her health.
As Mr. Johnson says, if Justice Ginsburg can do it so can you! Maybe not in the same way that she does, but if you can move and breathe there is still a level of exercise that each of us can manage. The terms “balance”, “strength” and “flexibility” have multiple meanings. Balance is not just about standing on one foot, but also about maintaining a balance in your life. If one aspect of your life starts to overwhelm all the others, stress will result and your body will react. Exerting strength will help you maintain the discipline you need to take care of yourself. And flexibility will help you to go with the flow when life takes a turn you hadn’t planned on. All of these qualities are part of what you will build when you commit to movement.
So next time you’re tempted to blow off your workout because you think something else is more important, remember that all the systems in your body are depending on you to keep them running. All the important things in your life need you to be functioning at your best. You’re no good to anyone if you can’t function. Help yourself to be the best that you can be!