Many people associate looking after their body with pushing themselves hard in the gym – lifting heavy weights, doing lots of repetitions, running fast or using a cross trainer at full pelt. This is reinforced by the feel good factor that comes with a session in the gym and the adrenaline /endorphin rush. Of course it’s not just in the gym but there are many forms of exercise where we push the body as hard as possible.
Not only that but in day to day life we can do every day movements and actions in a way that is hard, rough or aggressive without even realising we are doing it. We bang doors closed, turn on taps or even leave cups and plates down in a way that is hard or rough without even noticing. We perform so many activities on autopilot, often completely unaware of the actual quality we are performing them with.
We might think this doesn’t matter – that our bodies are designed to work hard and to do whatever we require in whatever manner we choose and that the body will cope.
But what if it’s not that simple? What if it does matter?
What if every movement and action we make with the body affects the body in ways that can be good for it or bad for it? What if the quality with which we move and perform tasks has a bearing on the health of the body?
Consider the possibility that when we are being hard, aggressive, rough, pushing, driving etc that our physical body is being detrimentally affected by bringing that hardness into the body, affecting its overall suppleness and flexibility. This happens over time of course – so we don’t even notice it is happening and we end up assuming those stiff, tight, hard muscles or joints are just part of getting older, wear and tear and might even dismiss it as just being ‘the way it is’ as we age.
So what if there was a way to live that could enhance the body’s wellbeing and maintain its flexibility and suppleness?
By bringing attention to the quality with which we move and perform activities we can begin to notice when we are being hard, rough or aggressive and observe how that feels in the body as we are doing it.
We can choose to bring in the quality of gentleness to our movements and activities. We all know what gentleness feels like, we all have some idea of what it is to be gentle, so it is easy for us to apply this in our every day lives. We may begin to notice ‘that wasn’t very gentle’ or ‘that could have been more gentle’ as we go about our daily activities. Even feeling how you place your feet on the ground as you walk – do you stomp hard or gracefully glide? Notice if your forearm muscles are tight, tense and hard as you brush your teeth as hard as possible or are they relaxed with gentle movements back and forth? Observe how you close cupboard or car doors – do they bang closed or are they gently apposed? What is the quality with which you chop vegetables, stir soup, wash the dishes? Is there a lot of clashing and clanging when you work in the kitchen or is the sound of silence barely disturbed?
The interesting thing is that we as do this and focus on making our movements gentle, the level of what we call gentleness deepens – in other words, what is gentle for me now, in 6 months time will have deepened to a new level of gentleness, perhaps even making my starting point seem not so gentle! And it just keeps unfolding – there is no end to the depth of gentleness we can bring to ourselves and our bodies. This also deepens our level of appreciation for our bodies and what they do for us. We no longer want to push them hard in the gym or strain them with heavy weights but instead choose more gentle exercise and lighter weights – maintaining fitness but not compromising health.
Furthermore, as we live and apply this, we realise that our bodies just love being gentle and being treated with gentleness – they just seem to soak it up and melt away all that hardness and tension we have been carrying and living with. Gentleness is caring, and by being gentle we are caring for our bodies instead of pushing them beyond what is natural for them. Just like most things in life be it a car or TV or other equipment that we treat roughly, with disregard and lack of care, they tend to get broken or worn our more quickly than if we genuinely care for them, look after them and are gentle with them – so too it is for our bodies. But we can’t just go to the shop and get a new one like we can with equipment – so how much more important it is to invest in looking after your body, caring for your body, being gentle with your body – it will thank you for it.