This picture shows the physical changes in the homo sapien over time, the great and invincible human who stands up straight and thinks on a higher level than “lower” animals. And look how we’ve changed. Do you think we are improving overall?
The picture indicates that the peak of our fully-upright bipedal posture has come and gone, which means our overall ability to move is less than it used to be; clearly the guy on the right couldn’t compete physically with the one standing tall in the middle. And some may say, so what? Aren’t we smarter now? Don’t we have gadgets to do everything? Can’t we just live our lives from the computer, if we really want to, ordering our lives ready-made? Who needs to move, anyway?
Can we function without upright posture?
Clearly, we can…to a point. Our sedentary lives and stooped postures may leave us riddled with pain, zapped of energy, and unable to climb or run to safety if our lives depended on it (we’re sure they won’t), but we still think it’s worth the trade of sitting down for work, play, and anything in-between. In fact, in our modern world it is feasible that someone could live their life from the computer, although the quality of that life would certainly be questionable.
The problem is that our brains really need us to regain a balanced posture in order to continue functioning at the high level humans have achieved.
Does our posture really affect our brain?
Oh, yes. The upright posture and the development of the large human brain happened, necessarily, together. The modern human brain requires the support of a fully erect spine in order to function healthily.
“The full evolution of the human brain came after the early hominids acquired upright posture which allowed them to make and use tools. It is subsequent to these developments that there was a sharp explosion in brain size…” (Brain Evolution, http://www.holisticeducator.com/brainevolution.htm)
The fully-upright human posture serves to balance the heavy brain and to open a clear, straight passageway through the spine for the increasing message flow between body and brain. A stooped posture is limited in the weight it can carry efficiently. Besides that, the maintenance of that posture itself stimulates activity and growth in the brain that make us humans, well, human.
“Standing itself may be classified as simple behaviour, but maintenance of the postural balance requires rapid processing of signals from the visual, vestibular and somatosensory systems (Nashner, 1976).” Brain Activation During Maintenance of Standing Postures in Humans. http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/122/2/329.full
So the question is, do you think that our devolving spines continue to support our intellect over generations?
Increasingly unhealthy lifestyles in the last few decades despite major “advancements” in health care and discovery suggest the insidious belief among the more economically privileged nations that having our high human intellect excuses our need for healthy bodies – indeed, we modern humans have become almost fanatically reliant upon the surgical/pharmaceutical industry for survival, and there is no doubt that we have many medical treatments and advantages that our ancestors did not. We also have so many technological aids for living that movement does not seem to be essential to a high quality of life. Our ancestors, however, are the ones that survived so that we could be here now, and they did that by standing upright and moving.
Can you look at these pictures and honestly say that you think humans are healthier now than in the past? Who do you think has more freedom of movement, the upright figure in the middle of the page, or the one at the far right who is barely taller than the ape? Who would last longer in a day of hard physical activity? Whose body would last longer without medical support?
According to long-term studies by America’s Health Rankings, a division of the United Health Foundation, our health as a nation is not improving much these days. In the 1990′s, the annual overall improvement of health in the United States averaged 1.5 percent per year. In the following decade, that number dropped to 0.5% improvement overall. Currently, 1 in 4 of us are clinically obese.
There is no question that human intelligence has evolved, but can it continue to do so when our whole structure is compromised?
For more interesting things to ponder considering our modern posture problems, please go to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39523298/ns/health-mens_health/t/why-your-desk-job-slowly-killing-you/
Each day, spend some time just appreciating your body. Even five minutes will do. You could be mindfully stretching, you could be lovingly washing yourself, you could be just noticing your own breathing. Whatever it is you choose to do, do it with the intention of building up your appreciation for your body and affirming its worth in some way. Don’t wait until your body is “where you want it to be” to appreciate it – that is going about it backwards. Build the appreciation first as your foundation, and all else will follow.
“I HATE MIRRORS!” Wow, if only I had a dime for every time I hear that as a trainer. If I had even a penny for every time I said it myself – before really working on it with self-loving intention – I think I could buy Facebook. Today, I’m not so destructively self-obsessed, and it feels soooooo much better. I no longer avoid walking past store windows or buying clothes I need to try on. I can actually watch myself exercise and monitor my own form. Can you relate to the hangup I had? Would you like to be free of that monkey?From childhood, most of us are conditioned to use mirrors to critique ourselves – to notice when our hair needs brushing or our face has dirt on it, which is sometimes important. Many of us, however, take this objective assessment too far, harshly doling out self-criticism born of DYSMORPHIA, a warped sense of body-image that can lead to eating disorders and depression, ultimately working AGAINST your health plan! To feel better – and to be more accurate – about your body, learn to BE OBJECTIVE. This definitely takes practice, but it can be done. You’re breaking a very strong pattern, after all, so you’ll have to replace that negative inner voice with another one. Start by treating yourself like your own best friend; find something to appreciate, rather than criticize, EVERY TIME YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR. Give yourself some compliments. It may take a while to deconstruct years of self-criticism, but the end result will be a HEALTHIER, HAPPIER YOU. No, I’m not suggesting that you ignore the spinach in your teeth, but as you clean it out, how about giving yourself a big smile and appreciating the beauty of that?
In our ‘Nip and Tuck’ society, we are strongly conditioned to criticize our bodies and to “correct” them, conforming to a variety of media-prescribed ideals. With all of these messages about our inadequacy, it can be a challenge to maintain healthy and balanced attitudes about our bodies as functional vessels for our life adventures, which they are.
Who doesn’t want, deep inside, to really love themselves? Who doesn’t want to feel content with their life and happy with their choices? We all do. But we don’t.
Most of us are waiting until we “get it right,” somehow. ‘One day, when I ________________, then I’ll give myself a break and love myself, but right now, I don’t deserve it. Not yet.”
We criticize our bodies, our lives, our friends and family, and our worlds. We live in discontent, although our deepest Selves really just want to be happy.
Don’t wait until you are perfect to love You. Love You Now. It’s much easier than you think, and there’s no need to become perfect first. It’s just a matter of practice, just like the negative thinking to which you are more accustomed. You may be very practiced, polished even, at negative thinking. You may do it at every possible occasion. You can criticize yourself (and maybe others, too) at the drop of a hat. Wouldn’t it be great if your optimistic, positive thoughts were as immediately available?
It is simply a matter of practicing the thoughts you want (name them for yourself) until they flow out as a natural response, effectively reconditioning your mind. You can do it, and all it takes is commitment. Try these three things, and watch yourself change:
Body Appreciation Time. Every day, spend 5 minutes just appreciating your body in some way. You will practice thinking thoughts like, “I love my body. It takes me through my life. It is a good body, and no matter what, it is mine and I will take care of it today.” These thoughts may seem awkward at first, especially if you aren’t used to thinking that way, but it will feel more and more natural as you practice. Couple these loving thoughts with a short activity involving your body. The activity could be just about anything that makes your body feel good (and appreciated). It could be scrubbing yourself all over with your favorite salt scrub and saying to yourself, “I appreciate this arm (face, leg, breast, etc.). It picks things up for me and hugs my loved ones. I’m taking care of it today.” It could be a stretching session in which you focus on the actions and feelings in your body with appreciation. It could be that you just rest in a hammock or on the ground and float inside your body, noticing what you notice inside. The activity does not matter, as long as it makes your body feel good, and it could change daily if you choose. The important thing is to consciously form thoughts which are affirming and loving, and to return to these again and again, gradually replacing the old, worn-out thought-processes with shiny new ones. You’ll feel better about yourself sooner than you believed was possible, and you didn’t have to become perfect.
Treat Your Body Like Your Best Friend. Chances are, you are kind and giving toward your best friend. You most likely give that one the benefit of the doubt and have their best interest in mind. Your body has been with you for every single second of your entire life; it has never left you or betrayed you yet, even when you (your mind, your actions) have betrayed and hurt it. Talk about loyalty! Imagine the confusion inside each and every one of us when we habitually speak and think negatively about the one thing in our human lives that has been present each and every moment. We naturally want to enjoy our lives, and this body-hating habit inhibits that enjoyment tremendously because of the confusion it creates. To break away from negative self-talk and start loving your body today, just notice how you are thinking. When you catch yourself speaking negatively to or about yourself, about your body, your life, your world, notice that. Notice the words, the tone, the feeling. Would you speak to your best friend that way? If not, how would you speak to your best friend in the same circumstance? If you find that you are being unreasonably hard or critical, turn it around. Choose a thought that is more uplifting, more encouraging, more affirming. It will take practice, but if you remember that your body has always been with you and always will be with you in this life, that it really is like a best, loyal friend, you will turn your thoughts around one by one. Start with something small, a nagging negative thought that you are already questioning. Tell it to get lost by repeating a counter-action thought until the nagging thought has lost power. (Eg.: Nagging thought – “My belly is so loose these days since I had the baby. I hate it!” Catch it. Change it to something like: “My belly is loose – what a miracle that it housed a new, growing life! It isn’t like it was before the baby, that’s true. It has gone through a change because of what nature called it to do. I accept and love it now because it is a part of me. I will do what I can today to support it, and the rest of my body, to be as healthy as possible.”)
Just say, “I love my body.” Just say it to yourself. Then say it to others. Practice saying it until it is true. Because deep, deep down, it is.
TODAY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE. TODAY IS THE DAY YOU SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY.
TODAY IS THE DAY YOU DECLARE YOUR BODY TO BE YOUR MOST SACRED, POWERFUL TEMPLE, THE DAY YOU DEDICATE TO ITS CARE.Why today? Well, not only so you can feel better, function more fully, have organs working well, breathe more easily TODAY, but also because, well, you never know when you may need to call upon your body for a really big effort.
Please listen to my story of a recent, unfortunate event that happened to one of my favorite Body Lovers…My youngest daughter is almost 14 years old and has always been the most naturally able-bodied, agile, healthy person I’ve met. When she was 3, she was climbing up to the top of the jungle gym and there was no stopping her. She started playing soccer at age 5 and has taken up many other sports in the meantime. She just loves to MOVE. She thrives on the delight that her body brings in its full expressions of dynamic power, of delicate balance, of increasing strength and speed. She has become a formidable soccer player, enjoying the speed of forward, the stamina of midfield, and the power of defense.
Last week she experienced a soccer collision that has left her leg badly broken and openly wounded. She’ll be having surgery soon. AND HERE’S THE POINT: Even with her amazing health and strength, it’s still really, really physically hard! Her hip has a tough time lifting up the giant splint/cast, her arms get tired from using the crutches, her core gets sore from reclining, all this adding to the stress of it all…AND WHAT IF SHE WERE NOT SO FIT? WHAT IF SHE HAD NO CONNECTION WITH HER BODY, NO DETERMINATION TO RUN AGAIN? Her specific pain and general discomfort are very great already…I cannot imagine what her condition would be if she were not so strong. No, I correct that; I CAN imagine, and it’s worse. Way worse. I have seen individuals who virtually “threw away” their bodies with significant injuries or illnesses, developing hate and disdain because of the pain and frustration. But it isn’t the body’s fault; it needs your help to be healthy. YOUR BODY NEEDS YOUR BEST EFFORT!
Because you deserve to feel better.We all have enough stress in our lives. We only add to it by ignoring our health. TAKING CARE OF YOUR BODY TODAY, EVEN JUST DOING ONE LITTLE STRETCH, WILL EASE YOUR OVERALL STRESS LEVEL JUST A LITTLE BIT. And every little bit adds up.
Your body is your home; you have no where else to live. Your castle, your temple. YOUR LIFE.
What will you do for YOU today? The amazing young woman I mentioned will be breathing deeply, drinking lots of water, laughing, and even stretching. She will progress through a healing program because she wants to enjoy her body again. BECAUSE SHE HASN’T HAD A CHANCE TO FORGET THE JOY OF HEALTH, AND SHE’S HUNGRY FOR IT.
REMEMBER. REMEMBER HEALTH. REMEMBER MOVEMENT. SEIZE THE DAY!!!!
September 11th, 2013 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments are closed
Cirque de So-Gray Training (not the safest move, but pretty fun)
(Author’s Note: This article was written before the DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – set in. Now I am so sore I need help to type. Kidding – it’s well worth it.)
Wow, what a great day! Today my body feels so…young again. Today I am celebrating the miraculous and mysterious walking universe that is my ever-changing body. I am loving my body, and I plan to discover more ways to love it each day- that is my personal Body Love Project.
Okay, things could be magnified by that big full moon outside, but today I did things with my body that I have not even tried in over 25 years, and I lived to tell you about it so you can revisit the springy steps of your youth, too. Maybe you think that you’ll never do one of your favorite activities again, that you have left it in the past because your body is “too old,” but the truth is, an older body can be phenomenally flexible, incredibly strong, well- balanced, and even bouncy, with some …ahem….wisdom from the years as icing on the cake. The medical community is constantly telling us we’re breaking down, and that may be an accurate assessment of what is going on in the bodies of many humans who are leading damagingly sedentary lives, not getting adequate movement to adequately maintain the many movement-dependent bodily systems. It is not, however, an idea that applies to everyone. Maybe, just maybe, we can get BETTER as we get older. I think I’ve seen a t-shirt about it.
A friend recently gave me an article from The New York Times (11/28/10) about a 91-year old woman named Olga Kotelko who is breaking track records (in her age group – yes, others do it, too!) across events including shot put, high jump, and 100-meter dash! HIGH JUMP, FOLKS, and she’s 91!!! She started training in her 60s. Now, according to the notes the insurance company sends in the mail, I am supposed to be screened for all sorts of maladies naturally brought on by aging, because anything over 35 is considered by the medical community to be soooooo old, body-wise, and I am a whopping 44. Pishaw. I think it has so much to do with our attitudes, and Olga is proof. So was Jack La Lanne. So are so many old folks living active lives off the land, relying on their own bodies for transportation, running from here to the next village at age 90. I mean, think about it. If it’s true that ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it,’ why do we stop using it when we are still relatively so young? If my life expectancy is 70-95 years, I should technically reach my strongest point of life at least half-way through. I plan to live to be one-hundred and twenty, at least that’s always sounded pretty good to me, so I may hit my peak around 60- whoopee! I can still ‘use it’ for a long time. When did we start looking at our twenties as the peak time for bodily health and strength? Could it be possibly that, in our twenties, we were more bold about moving our bodies? We just stopped “USING IT.” What could possibly happen if we started using it again? Could we rediscover what seemed lost? I think so. If you are starting to lose it, it’s time to use it. If it’s already lost – if you really want it, seek it.
A long time ago I was a gymnast, and I really enjoyed it. I competed a little, wasn’t the best, nor was I the worst, but mostly had fun flipping. Flipping through the air is a great feeling, much like flying and falling at the same time. I got hurt pretty badly when I was about 14, when I stopped doing the conditioning essentials for my sport, like stretching and core strengthening, and started doing other middle-school things that were cooler than keeping my body strong and flexible enough. My gymnastics career officially ended then, but I kept doing flips on the beach, fewer and fewer every summer until one year I just didn’t have the guts any more. Probably, in my body I knew I didn’t completely have the same strength, either. So I never did those flips I loved again. I used to dream about that, me flipping down the beach, and I thought, I’ll never really do that again, so I can dream on.
My daughter tried gymnastics a few times and loved it. We started going to this open full gymnasium every Friday night, and I saw the kids all around (I was the oldest in the place by far, including the coaches) doing flips and bouncing and balancing and swinging and I thought, I love this place. I’m doing it. Started out on the trampoline, totally peed my pants (sorry but it’s true – since then I have strengthened my pelvic floor muscles and I’m back in control), then went on to the bars (“Lady, are you some kind of coach or something?” “No, I’m just a grownup who wants to do gymnastics.” “Hmm.”), did a backbend and reminded myself to stretch that every single day – ow! – , flew off the springboard through the air and onto my butt on a big foamy mat with kids watching me like I’m nuts, fell off the lowest balance beam just walking along, and almost had a heart attack when my daughter flipped backward on her own with no spotter, no warning, but it was great (no problem!). At the end, you could wipe the floor up with me; in fact I did just lay there and I recall being pulled around by my legs as the distant sound of my daughter’s giggles reach my ears. And I felt like I was in heaven. It felt so good to be in that place, moving my body and challenging it and being inspired. I made up my mind I would come with my daughter every single Friday and just see where it took me.
So (drumroll….) today I flipped! I actually did it and did it again. I’ve been working toward it really gradually, strengthening my body and mind over the last few years, but I didn’t know I would actually go through with it until today. I realized a very encouraging thing, that I’m actually stronger now than I was in my twenties, not in every way, but in many ways, both of body and mind. So I had the training and the will. Not only that, today was the perfect day to try a daring and desired feat – I had been moving my body all day in different ways, all day long (tiring, but great for our systems). The day started out with a morning dance class, then a delightful massage, then a personal yoga session in which I was the student, a personal training session in which I was the teacher, a dip in the hot tub, and then on to the gymnastics studio with my 11 year-old daughter. In between of each of these activities were tasty and nourishing treats like hot milk and honey, tortilla casserole and a homemade monster cookie from the People’s Food Co-op, some blood oranges, some pears, a fruit tart and many more delicious AND nutritious bits of energy. Everything in my day was good for me and enjoyable at the same time. My body liked it. I think that’s why I could do the flip today (technically a back-handspring); my body was just so happy or something.
And let me tell you, those flips felt GREAT! The flying/falling/flippy feeling, yes, and the feeling of just DOING IT, oh yes and yes again. It gave me confidence in a way I needed to feel. It gave me hope, somehow. Made me feel fresh and full of potential. Amazing medicine!
So, what’s the secret to regaining the movement that you had as a youth? MOVING. Start moving as much as you can in as many different directions as you can. Listen to your body, start slowly, and let yourself enjoy it. You may not be able to work your whole career around movement, but you can incorporate more movement into anything you do. Do things you haven’t done for a long time – and again, start easy!- and notice how your body starts to feel more vibrant, more energetic, “younger.” Our bodies thrive on movement, subtle and dynamic, and they start to deteriorate as the movement disappears from our lives. So put that movement back in! Jump up and touch the top of the door frame or the ceiling as you pass under. Run across the yard instead of walking, or better yet, jump from stepping stone to stepping stone. Push up between two countertops so you are suspended on just your arms. Bend backward off your bed. Hang from something. Get down on the floor. Your body will love it and you’ll be happier overall. It’s true.
As always, please infuse your program with as much body LOVE as possible, by eating nourishing, nurturing foods, getting quality body work, and helping your body to feel good in as many healthy ways as possible!
I’m planning to gather a troupe of really fit “old” folks in about twenty years for an inspiring new version of Cirque de Solei in which all of the performers will be over 65 years old. It wil be called “Cirque de So-Gray,” and it’s going to be colorful and acrobatic and fun. (I figure the youth whose bodies are being sacrificed, right now at this very moment, to the hand-held technology gods, those kids who think that walking across the living room to find the remote control is an admirable trek, they will be the most likely audience.) You have a few years to train before auditions open up, but the sooner you start training, the better! Just think, what a way to live – active and agile all the days of your life. So what if you never did gymnastics. So what if you never did much movement at all. It’s time to start and your body will absolutely love you for it. Maybe you’ll get your old groove back, whatever it is you love to do – your old jumpshot, your sexy dance move, your agile musical rif. Not only that, you can have a job with me in the Cirque de So-Gray. It’s so worth it, and you’ll get to wear an outrageous costume, too. So just move!