|I'm on a boat! Correction, I'm on a horse!|
It's not so important when you ride once every few years or so, but it is when you ride every day. It's also important for the horse, because that's what it's been trained to respond to.
I was reminded of horseback riding this morning when I realized that while my left foot automatically points forward (from years of rehabbing sprained ankles) my right foot does not. While I might think it is pointing straight, it is not, and I need to turn my heel out a bit. It has helped ease the strain on my knee and prevents my toes from tingling. Every 5 minutes I'd have to remind myself to keep my heel out.
Emily, she kindly showed me some exercises that I could do to help tone my arms and to work on my core. While doing tricep extensions, she constantly told me to keep my elbows tucked in towards my head. In other words -- not like the woman on the right. She told me it was okay to go slower or to do it one arm at a time (using my other arm to keep the working arm's elbow pointed toward my nose) if I did them correctly. Not doing an exercise correctly pretty much negates any positive effect.
While doing plank exercises, she also kept on reminding me to keep my hips/butt tucked in and core engaged (versus piking them) and adjusting me into the correct position. Another reminder I'll have to keep in my head when exercising. While messing around with the Tree Pose, she showed me that my hips were way out of line and I was over rotating. She suggested I might fare better with a modified tree pose and build up my strength/flexibility to a more recognizable form.
The point of all of this is that for as much as wellness is a physical practice, it is a mental practice as well. Our minds must be engaged while we are moving as to avoid injury, as to practice proper form, and to allow our mind and body to connect in a meaningful way.
So too our minds must be engaged while eating -- even if it's just to say "It's okay that I'm eating this cookie" or "I'm craving lasagna for dinner." Our mind is our most useful tool in changing the way we eat and what we eat. Sure we might have some lingering issues here and there, but for the most part they are external. Junk food is no longer the assailaint from within. Overeating is no longer suffocating our body's natural mechanisms of feeling full. Our mind, with its adjustments and reminders, is there there to assuage our fears that "OMG this is the last ice cream I'll ever get to eat and thus I must eat it all!" (There will be more ice cream, it is not going extinct), or that "OMG eating a whole pizza will fix my unhappiness" (If you're able to identify you're eating because you're unhappy, that's half the battle).
That brings me to the cosmic shift portion of the post: the Epiphany.
I've often mentioned the Epiphany in passing, both on the blog and on twitter, as well as with friends. The Epiphany goes something like this (with permission to amend as needed):
Until someone realizes the importance of their own health and well-being, no one else can force them to care. Until someone realizes that how they treat their body (food, exercise, care, kindness and forgiveness) is a practice of love and a statement to the world about how they feel about their own value, they will continue to see diet and exercise as a cycle of deprivation or guilt followed by punishment. They will feel any sense of self-worth to be misguided, selfish, or entirely absent.The Epiphany makes other things seem silly -- like whether I've shaved or not, or whether I'm wearing the trendy workout clothing. The bottom line, no matter what is that I owe it to myself to listen to my body and mind and pay attention to what it needs. I know it's not easy for everyone (especially those of you whose lives resemble three-ring circuses) but once the Epiphany happens, it doesn't have to be some song and dance or a big parade every time. Sometimes all you need to do to honor yourself and your needs is simply admit to yourself that you matter. Your existence in this world matters. What you put in your body matters. How you allow people to treat you matters.
The Epiphany is that it is not about deprivation, guilt, or punishment. The Epiphany is a deep and abiding sense of self worth, of value, of presence. The Epiphany is the sonic boom or the quiet whisper simply of "I matter." The Epiphany can be broken down into various "I matter" phrases -- such as "my feelings matter" or "my health matters." When your heart/mind/soul beings to stick up for yourself, it is only natural that your body does as well, as they are all interrelated.
It's not license to be a bull in a china shop. But it is license to have time every day (even if it's just 5 minutes) where your focus is on nourishing your heart/mind/body/soul. You're worth it. Believe me, you are.