Making Exercise Difficult

I took up Yoga a few months ago, and I find myself returning to the thoughts that I had during my Tai Chi years. In the West it seems that health is something to be pounded into the body from outside. We have the whole “no pain, no gain” mantra, the idea of straining for that extra bit and the mathematically challenged notion of 110%. The body seemingly broken into separate muscle groups, a view that I’ve seen challenged by research.

I’ve been through this and have, in the end, sought healing in the methods of the East. These systems seem to hold a view that I find more agreeable, that health and wellness should grow naturally as a whole from within. The notion is very Taoist, the whole of nature grows; it isn’t chiseled or designed, it expands and organises naturally (Tzu-Jan).  So it is with Yoga and Tai Chi, but when used correctly these systems also work on the mind as well as the body. This is in contrast to the one sidedness of the systems we so often encounter in the gym, where if they go near the mind do so in a seemingly combative way. I’ve been in classes where the instructor has had the students wilfully ignoring the warning signals from the body; “go the extra mile”, “give 110 percent”. Then we get aches, pains and injuries. I’ve seen them in others and had them myself.

That’s so wrong it’s not even funny, mind and body should be working together holistically. I’m reminded of the words of my Tai Chi instructor, who taught me that the body has natural stops in it, it will tell you when you go too far in a range of movement; learn to listen. The same is true of exertion and I find myself returning to the 70% rule like an old friend. I’ve seen enough injuries and strains that I learned the hard way not to ignore it and to work holistically.

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