Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finess Vs. Health

I've just started reading a new book for class, it's 'The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-Stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness' by Dr. Philip Maffetone. Exercise tends to be a pretty emotionally charged word - we live in a society that is obsessed with fitness, looking good, and achieving perfection, and many people take this to heart and hurt themselves in the process, while others feel imperfect, guilty, and inadequate. Now, I am making some sweeping generalizations here, but I think most would agree that, overall, it is not common for people here to have the healthiest of relationships with their bodies and with "exercise". 

The first thing I would like to bring up in regard to this topic, is the idea of differentiating between 'fitness' and 'health'. This is something I read about near the beginning of the book, and it really struck a cord. Just because someone is training hard and looking fit and toned does not actually make them healthy! The author defines health as "a state in which all the body's parts, including the muscles, nerves, bones, hormones, organs, and glands, are in balance" whereas fitness is "the ability to be physically active". Okay, so this seems pretty straight forward and common sensical. And yet, look at the cover of any health or exercise (yoga type) magazine and you'll see a picture of someone who looks like they train three hours a day and could be a professional athlete. The kind of professional athlete that may have the muscle tone-y appearance of health, but may actually be suffering from injuries and extreme stress. This may include physical stress (not enough rest and recovery time) and also the mental stress of obsessing over exercise and perfection and having to run so many miles in order to feel good about one's self. 

Pushing ourselves to the limit and thinking that we have to "feel the burn" and train until we're quite tired and out of breath is probably not the healthiest, most balanced of approaches. It's just another example of how disconnected we can become from our bodies in the race for outer, superficial perfection. Or maybe it's not even about perfection and appearance for some people - instead it's another way in which Type A, productivity-based, fast-paced society is influencing our thinking. Instead of moving in a way that feels good and fun, we feel the urgency to push ourselves as hard as we can, and only when we are exhausted do we feel that we have accomplished something. 

How do we end this war against the body and against the beautiful, perfect, lovable self? By reconnecting with ourselves and treating our bodies, minds, and spirits with love, respect, and deep appreciation. Our bodies do so much for us, it's absolutely incredible to think of the billions of things happening inside of us every second, filling us with life and energy and the potential to do whatever we want! It's important to reverse any negative thoughts targeted towards the body and the self, and to instead celebrate their inherent, innocent beauty :) By realigning ourselves and fully accepting and loving ourselves, we can experience the kind of bliss that no amount of push-ups can ever get you :) 

Our environment has a huge impact on who we are and what kind of lifestyle we lead. However, it is of the utmost importance for us to re-embrace our wild, unique natures and to live our lives according to our hearts rather than external expectations and societal norms. The way it stands now, it is not normal to love oneself. It is also not normal to eat healthy fresh food and to exercise in a fun way that reflects one's inner light. By empowering ourselves and following our own wisdom and intuition, we can live truly blissful lives and make a positive change :)

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