If you had met me in my 20s, there’s little chance you would do anything but laugh at the idea of me exercising and sweating daily for any duration of time, let alone three years. Knowing myself, it’s perhaps even more surprising. Yet, it’s good to know after these 36 months that yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
There were many motivations for starting this challenge and in retrospect I can see they were highly influenced by my aging process and the looming 50 that’s just over three years away. Now I know I started this process in my early 40s but as much as anything, it’s because I was waking up in pain daily. The first and perhaps best thing I want to mention about my practice is that I have less pain now than I did before. Which also seems shocking because I am working my body more, something any medical professional would agree would be healthier than the choices I made in my 20’s. I guess all those studies that they’ve done about how movement heals really is true. I’m not really sure how many references I’m supposed to link here about various articles I have read over the years pointing to how sitting is bad, movement is good, and we’re killing ourselves slowly with our modern lifestyle. I can say though that I’m a believer given my first hand experiences.
Second on my list has got to be the sense of more emotional stability. Taking the time for myself each day to be in my practice has allowed me to be more centered, present and clear throughout my day and life. It has given me a means of going inward when upset strikes and has allowed me to become more even-tempered.
Along with that though a bit different is the fact that not only is my emotional state more of an even keel, in general I’m happier. It’s hard to say if the happiness is 100% related to the exercise considering I did get married in the last couple of years as well. Although, the first year of our marriage had its challenges related to situations that were beyond our control and I feel the consistency and comfort of having my practice in some ways helped me manage and navigate those difficulties more easily and joyfully. It also seems somewhat antithetical to me because when I started, the idea of doing my practice seemed like a chore whereas now, 38 months later, even when I resist on some level I absolutely know it will be good for me. As a result, I actually look forward to something 25 years ago I dreaded: moving/exercising/being in my body!
Perhaps as high on the list is the clear development of increased body awareness on a day-to-day basis in many moments throughout the day. In the past, I was so disembodied I didn’t even notice when my leg was falling asleep or joint pain from sitting too long or stiffness that developed from lack of mobility but now I notice those things and add stretches into my day and keep my body moving much more smoothly with much less pain than ever before — it seems all as a result of this improved awareness.
Having a daily practice that involves movement and burning calories has also kept me much more committed to the quality, quantity and caliber of food with which I am nourishing my body. I’ve been eating better, cleaner, more consistently and with fewer binges. I have a tendency to really enjoy eating and have spent many hours over many years enjoying that particular pleasure. It’s somewhat liberating to have moved from an enjoyment-based activity to a health-based activity where I’m looking at food intake from the perspective of fuel and function as opposed to predominantly pleasure, enjoyment and/or sublimation.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy chocolate and don’t like sweets anymore but I have definitely cut down on them as a consequence of these choices rather than as a focus which has been a useful byproduct of the process. The change has affected me on multiple levels simply by being in different relationship with my body. What’s miraculous to me about that is that for the first time in my adult life I have not been really focused on my diet and it has been taking care of itself in a way that has allowed me to maintain my weight. For me, this is huge and a tremendous help to be managing my weight within a +/-5 pound range for a three-year+ period. This is unheard of for me over my adult life where I have yo-yoed up and down in a 100 pound range for decades. I can now say I have kept off 120 pounds from my heaviest for three years consistently. That feels really good.
The consequence of having more control over my intake is that somewhere along the ride, my focus shifted from three years to my life span. It’s not unreasonable to think that someone under 50 right now would easily live to 100 years old. We may talk about retirement at 55 or 65 but I can’t imagine living another 30 or 40 years without working… Or at least being able to work. Given that I teach poi, the use of my body is critical not just for my job but for my passion. Somewhere along the way I realized that if I want to use my body for the rest of my life I need to use my body every day of my life and made this little meme to remind me that practice is daily, not sporadic. That has been a tremendous shift and a huge blessing.
While I consider myself to be a tenacious woman I haven’t really considered myself very disciplined over the years. It has been interesting for me to step into having a daily discipline and, I like the benefits. It reminds me of a challenge in showing up to sit at my Vipassana retreat at sessions when I didn’t want to.
If you’ve met me, you know that when it comes to confidence I’m doing pretty well in that domain. But my weakest sense of confidence has always lain in my capabilities with my body. I can’t say I’m over that… But I can definitely attest to a surge in confidence in my capabilities with my body and a reduction in my general sense of clumsiness. These are actually two different things that play well together: my reflexes seem faster, my ability to catch a ball is vastly improved, and my coordination is seemingly better than it was when I was a kid. I’m guessing that’s the practice, not the aging. 😉
Then there’s the obvious: my practice has gotten better in every dimension. I’m better with my tools, better with my dancing, better with my yoga, better with everything that I do with my body… And I can feel it in day-to-day activities from walking down the street to more intimate things like lovemaking. No joke — stronger core muscles will make a huge difference in the sack!
As the new year approaches, maybe it’s time to consider new goals, new practices, new ways of supporting your body and development. Looking for direction? Join our Study Buddy program today and make 2016 the best year yet!
For assistance building a practice that makes sense for you, contact GlitterGirl directly, comment on this post or subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek business training or guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little ‘at’ symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).