Three months ago was christmas: because of quite a big family, these celebrations usually start on December 11th for me, and end roughly around January 12th… This, and the end-of-the-year workload, usually force me to stop working out.
One month ago, I made a classic mistake while snowboarding, and I was rewarded with a sprained wrist: not going back to the gym anytime soon, since I’m totally unable to hold a firm grip or even to put weight on my joint.
Two days ago, I taught my art at a seminar, and guess what ? I was able to perform an exercise that I had quit practicing…
One hour ago, I thought to myself that I wanted to share a thought with you, dear readers, for this thought can help many people, even those who don’t workout…
This exercice is the one you can see as this article’s featured image: your hands grab each other, one coming from above your shoulders, and one coming from below them. For the past two years, I couldn’t perform this exercice, because my elbows felt a bit painful when my hands would reach each other.
That is why I started practicing a modified version of this exercice: the intent is more important than the fact of performing it perfectly, and if my hands don’t touch each other, that is not a critical problem. This tip is applicable to any other exercice: a softer version of it will still make you work, and will make you advance on your path, even though the form doesn’t look “standard”.
I don’t like stating causations as if it held some kind of certainty, but I’ll count on you to rembember that I came to this conclusion while tinkering with my body, very empirically, and not in a scientifically rigorous way: I think working out had limited my range of motion, even though I was very flexible and performing stretching every day.
That’s not a subversive hypothesis, of course, since working out makes you bulkier, and therefore dimnishes your range of motion.
And that’s what I want to share with you today: when you tinker with your body (or mind, or life itself), you quickly realize that spending energy in one direction slightly impairs your journey in another direction.
Getting stronger can make you less flexible, and the more you specialize your body, the harder it’ll get to develop other qualities.
My personal life has been full of these funny explorations: climbing made me stiffer and a slightly less agile pianist, playing the piano made me slightly more vulnerable to some wrist-locks in martial arts, martial arts made me slightly too grounded to dance, and so on…
Note that it’ll be the same thing regarding the way your body is built: being more flexible can make your joints less reactive, being stronger can make you stiffer, training your endurance can lower your strength if you specialize in strength, and gaining muscle mass can lower your performances if you are a runner…
And it’s the same thing, again, regarding your body shape: being fat makes you heavier, but protects you from shocks and makes your joints more stable, which is why strongmen, those athletes whose physical prowess rely on their incredible strength, don’t care about their bodyfat ratio.
And it’s the same thing, again, for people who don’t care about fitness or high-level sports ! Of course, as long as you haven’t been practicing for long, you can improve your performance in practically every direction, and there isn’t a more desirable direction (because we all chose our direction arbitrarily). Yet, if you want a result, based on somebody else’s results, if the results counts more than your inner state, you might end up hurting yourself, both physically and psychologically.
If you are inspired by someone’s state of mind, or philosophy, you will benefit from this mindset and find a different outcome. If you focus more on the goal that this inspiring person has achieved, without this person’s mindset, you will probably not only miss your goal, and also hurt yourself.
Friendly Body’s way of using your awareness to explore your body’s abilities is based on this simple fact: we are not equal with each other. Our bodies are not equal, and we cannot necessarily copy another person’s mindset. Not everyone can practice gymnastics, yoga, or any other sport healthily, and among the practitioners of a sport in particular, not everyone can perform every exercice: I am saying this as a Pilates or Yoga teacher, for I haven’t seen a single person capable of performing every exercice in the Pilates or Yoga handbook.
It is the mindset I would like to share with you: this implies that, sometimes, you don’t have to copy the external form of a teacher’s moves or stances, because even in non-traumatizing and soft body-conditioning systems, you will find exercices that you cannot perform, and this applies to everyone.
When I teach this mindset, I am blessed to see my students adapt my exercices to their own bodies, even though their external form is different from mine. I am blessed to hear my students tell me, even in a group workshop: “I won’t do this, it’s not good for my body”. I feel joyful to listen to my students, telling me: “I will do another exercie, that will make me develop the same qualities, but will protect my wounds”.
Above all, I feel blessed to see my students, using this mindset to perform moves or stances in a way that I could never imitate: my students are already better than I am at some exercices. They copy the essence of my work, instead of its external form, and seize every opportunity to find their own way of moving.
To paraphrase Koichi Tohei, the forest doesn’t mock the river because of its lack of density, and the river doesn’t mock the mountain for its immobility.