You're working out the way you have for years but aches and pains don't go away.
Minor injuries keep piling up.
You really want to get fit, but going to the gym just doesn't feel right.
You've lost your edge at your favorite sport.
You've never really enjoyed exercise and its hard to keep pretending that you do.
You're recovering from an accident, injury or surgery and can't seem to find your groove again.
Fitness classes feel more like a fashion show than a health benefit.
Your daily stress gets in the way and exercise doesn't calm you down anymore.
You have a chronic condition like fibromyalgia, diabetes, chronic fatigue etc. and it hurts to exercise.
Most of the exercise solutions out there feel at odds with my lifestyle and values.
Any of these sound familiar?
The problem is that we live in a fast paced, competitive, aggressive world and the fitness industry reflects that. Their solutions are usually some form of harder, faster, tougher...
“Exercise is SUPPOSED to be hard!”
“If you don't breathe hard and sweat a lot, you're not getting any benefit.”
“No pain, no gain!”
Are you one of the thousands of out-of-shape people who have heard these common myths about exercise and decided that you could never succeed at something so unpleasant or difficult?
Or have you tried one of those hyped-up fitness programs du jour, then given up because the results were minimal, or the exercise itself caused severe discomfort or even injury?
The fitness industry is filled with instructions for tricking yourself into exercising harder, urging you to ignore pain and discomfort. Such programs often recommend starting at a low level of whatever the exercise is, and working up to more and more strenuous repetitions.
Once you have conquered those strenuous exercises, you are encouraged to take on even more and more difficult routines.
It's almost as if the goal of exercise is to do more exercise, rather than to improve your strength, cardiovascular tone mobility, and overall health.
But what if there were a different way, a better way? What if you could improve your fitness comfortably, gently, with no feeling that you are pushing yourself beyond your limits?
What if you could begin and maintain your fitness starting at any age, from nearly any level of current fitness?
We've all seen a Yin/Yang circle; half black and half white, with an “S” curve through the middle.
This circle represents the age-old idea of balance between opposites. For example: Black/White; Up/Down; Fast/Slow; Exertion/Rest.
In Taoist philosophy, Yin is darker, Yang is lighter; Yin is female, Yang is male; neither is absolute, and they constantly change, as day (Yang) shades into night (Yin) and vice versa.
The proper balance between these opposite forces is the nature of the world.
Optimum health and fitness are a result of the proper balance between expending energy, Yang, and replenishing energy, Yin.
Think of your health as an energy reservoir.
Certain activities and states of being, described as Yang, use up that energy.
Examples of things that deplete your energy are stress, illness, injury, and lack of rest.
But even enjoyable activities can use more energy than they build—such as several sets of tennis or strenuous hiking.
Other activities and states of being, referred to as Yin, recharge energy.
The things that help re-fill your energy reservoir are healthy food, good sleep, and the right kind of exercise.
Exercise like the routines found in my Healing Movements System.
Neither Yang (depleting energy), nor Yin (replenishing energy) is good or bad by itself. The balance between them is what counts.
Throughout your life, your health reservoir needs to have enough energy coming in to make up for the amount that flows out.
In Western medicine, this idea of balance is reflected in the two main branches of your autonomic nervous system. (This is the part of your nervous system that controls unconscious processes, like breathing, heartbeat, and digestion.)
The direction of energy flow corresponds to the branch of your autonomic nervous system that is dominant at a given time.
When you are stressed, the branch called the sympathetic nervous system is in control. Your heart rate goes up. Blood pressure goes up. Your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. This is called the “Fight or Flight” response, because it prepares you literally to either fight—or to flee.
If you become chronically stressed, the Fight or Flight response is activated all the time—resulting in such terrible health consequences as high blood pressure and heart disease.
When you are relaxed and in the groove, on the other hand, the other branch of your autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, is at work.
Your breathing slows and becomes deeper. Your heart rate goes down. Blood pressure goes down. This is sometimes called “The Relaxation Response.”
All healing, all rebuilding --all recharging of your energy reservoir--happens when you are relaxed, when the parasympathetic nervous system is dominant and the flight or fight response is turned OFF!
In exercise and other physical exertion, activities can be classified as Yin or Yang.
Yang activities are things like running, jumping, or anything fast and vigorous. Yang exercises expend a lot of energy.
You may have heard that the amount of time you rest after exercise is as important as the exercise itself.
When you are engaged in vigorous Yang activities, your sympathetic nervous system is in play.
Even if you enjoy an activity like running a marathon or playing tennis, you may be expending more energy than you can build back up when you rest.
You are drawing on your energy reserves. If you are young and healthy, that's okay. But if you're not, you may need another way to recharge.
Yin activities are slower, calmer, more precise and gentle. And here is the key: Yin activities build more energy than they expend.
The secret to Yin movements is that they restore your energy reserves while you are moving and getting fit.
Many people who try yin-type fitness for the first time marvel at how energized, yet relaxed, they feel afterwards.
The reason many of us have health complaints as we age, such as stiff joints and tiredness, is that our energy reservoirs have become depleted and we must restore the balance between Yang and Yin.
We have expended more of this vital energy over the years than we have rebuilt from sleep, rest, restorative exercise and healthy food. The mistake many of us make now is to try to rebuild our reserves using Yang activities.
This only further depletes the system.
The solution is simple: increase the amount of time you spend in Yin activities, like Chi Gong, Tai Chi, meditation and (some) very gentle yoga. Only after you replenish and heal, will you have the vital energy you need to enjoy more vigorous activities without pain and fatigue.
Keeping energy balance in mind, let’s take another look at those exercise so-called truths I listed earlier:
Myth #1: “Exercise is SUPPOSED to be hard!”
FALSE. All body movements, including exercises, should be easily within your capabilities. If something is too hard—if you have to force yourself to finish it because of discomfort, then it is depleting your energy reserves and limiting your ability to increase those capabilities without damage. One of my students always considered herself fit until she enrolled in a very vigorous yoga program. There she was exposed to people who could seemingly easily do poses she could not manage. Her fellow yogis urged her to keep trying. “Pain is only a sensation,” her instructor told her. After working on it for months, and with two class members helping to force her body into the pose, she finally achieved it, at the cost of injuring her back so seriously that she could not do any poses for months.
Myth #2. “If you don't breathe hard and sweat a lot, you're not getting any benefit.”
FALSE. Many people believe that a good workout must include a pounding heart and rapid breathing. This is because in Yang exercises exertion itself is prized. In Yin exercises, on the other hand, control (strengthening the essential and relaxing the unnecessary) is the goal. Rapid heart rate and rapid breathing are unnecessary for strengthening the heart and the lungs. In Yin exercises, breathing is the fundamental level of control. If you breathe fast you stimulate the sympathetic nervous system: fight or flight. Using controlled breathing, you turn the parasympathetic nervous system on, replenishing your body’s store of energy.
Myth #3. “No pain, no gain!”
This is perhaps the most common exercise myth, and the reason that so many people push themselves to do harmful, depleting Yang exercises. This myth is based on the fact that muscles experience micro-tears when you do strenuous exercise, and then supposedly heal stronger than ever. The unfortunate truth is that torn tissue is not replaced by new muscle tissue—instead it is replaced by scar tissue, which is not elastic, like muscle tissue.
With Yang exercises the main benefit of the exercise occurs while resting after vigorous activity, using your body’s ability to stimulate the body’s repair mechanisms. But these can become emergency repairs when you overdo it, or when your energy reservoir is depleted. With Yin exercises, like my Healing Movements System, the benefit occurs both during and after exercise. What you get is energized relaxation without damage, and restoration rather than repair.
The real truth when it comes to exercise is that no pain means MORE gain.
When you work within nature’s perfect balance, MIRACLES HAPPEN.
The great news is that there IS a better way. My Healing Movements System works with your body to promote overall health while improving your physical condition. Based on the ancient Chinese practices of Tai Chi and Chi Gong, my system works on the principle of energy balance within your body.