Sunday, May 1, 2011


     I think a lot of people have an idea that exercise is something to be gotten through, that it is painful and should be just short of excruciating. I can't believe the look I see on some people's faces when they are running on the outdoor trail. They appear to be suffering greatly; their bodies stiff and stilted, cockeyed and gimpish, but they keep on doing it. They land each footstep heavy and flat. It almost hurts just to watch them.
     Similarly, it's a common idea that for a massage to be effective it should be "deep" to the point of discomfort. It's this whole "no pain, no gain" philosophy. Though that may well be true when it comes to spiritual lessons, in terms of exercise and massage, for the most part, I entirely disagree.
     Bodies are designed to move, and naturally seek health and balance. In our high-stress, mostly seated lifestyle, muscles need our help and gentle urging to feel great. They do not need punishment, crushing, beating, grinding, or overload. Working out should leave a body refreshed and relaxed, lengthened, strengthened, happy, and tired in a good way.
     And what about feeling "beat up" after a massage? Who wants that? Massage is for the whole person. I believe it's about comfort and care. It requires a firm and healing touch, and a variety approach, whatever is required to adjust imbalance without forcing and digging. That's what feels best to me. When a therapist tries to force one of my tight muscles by attacking it, I seize up. There are other ways to balance what's out of whack than a full on frontal assault.
     It's food for thought. As a culture, we are generally so urgent and intense. We can't believe that something can be good for us and actually feel good too. We think we have to suffer to reap benefits. But movement that seems subtle, that feels natural and surprisingly pleasant can have a great effect over time in changing our overall health. I witness it everyday in the progress of my clients.
     If we take a clue from nature, it's not unlike the Colorado river designing the Grand Canyon as it runs its natural course. It moves by flow and the curves of the land. It is not against anything; it moves around obstacles and encompasses what is small enough for it to carry: so natural, so simple, and yet, look what it creates!
Today I will move towards health without feeling the necessity to beat myself up in any way.