The Human Masterpiece
You evolved to be able to do a lot more than squats, elliptical, pushups and play sports for your movement. You are a uniquely designed human being, with over 200 bones and over 350 joints that can orchestrate an infinity amount of patterns with your 700+ muscles.
So why settle for doing one thing? Why do you only run and do yoga? Don’t settle for two activities. What is your obsession with pushups and doing lots of reps of things? Why are you simplifying your body for the sake of exercise? Your body represents the infinity, the never ending, the time bending, anything is possible if you put your mind to it system on this planet. But still we have gyms and doctor’s offices selling physical health that doesn’t make sense. Unsophisticated routines and prescriptions for an extremely sophisticated machine. Why? For the sake of not having to work hard or think hard. And so we take an intricately woven design and use outdated practices to help heal and align it. We blindly step into the vicious cycle of exercise, injury, rehab, repeat. We chase vanity, not health. We want self-validation, not self-acceptance. Lifting weights validates your manliness and strength. Barre classes validate your sense to feel long and lean like a dancer.
And our joints, our poor joints, they take the brunt of it all.
We partake in repetitive motions that limit our joint’s expressions. We pound away on our joints, several at a time, pushing our bodies around, not knowing what we’re doing. We play sports for the love of the game, but not for the love of the body. We enjoy how movement makes us feel, but we struggle to sit still with where we truly are with it. We don’t understand movement.
“Why do we have to understand it?!”
At the end of the day we only understand what we like (which is what we choose to do), and therefor we look at our body through a narrow lens. A sad thing for such a miraculous vehicle. The only vehicle, for that matter, that transports us, takes care of us, shelters us, and heals us 24/7 365 days a year. We take this abstract living body and put it into boxes it doesn’t like. But it is a resilient body, and will adapt to whatever you tell it to do…that is…until it won’t.
The Rise and Fall
And so it becomes our slave. We neglect it, take it for granted, barely recognize it except when it does something amazing for us, like save us from falling, or remembers to dodge the ball flying towards our head. We forget how its always working, with a mind of its own. It digests food for us, flushes out toxins for us, eliminates waste, transports oxygen to muscles when we need them, it rests, it responds, it emotes for us. Yet all we do for it is go to the gym (or not go to the gym) and put it through the gauntlet of what we want. We essentially punish it. In turn we end up punishing ourselves.
And our joints, our poor joints, they take the brunt of it.
We make our joints twist, compress, space apart, all for the sake of ‘sweat and burn’. We burn ourselves on a cellular level all the time! How crazy is that? You’ll say you don’t get to exercise all day, you’ll say you need to workout for your peace of mind, to lose weight, the list goes on!
But I will tell you what you need- your joints to work for you. Not just today, but for the rest of your life. All your reasons to exercise are valid, though in the realm of hierarchy, your joints have to be at the top. And the hierarchy must be respected. Your joints are the mountains of your inner world and your blood is the river. And the rivers go all across the mountains, and they feed into other bodies of water, and then you have your nerves, that are electrical signals which permeate the mountains. And they can cause sunlight or darkness to be cast onto your joints. And believe it or not, you can move mountains. You can move your joints in so many ways, and you can direct the rivers where you want, and you can shine sunlight or darkness wherever you please. And your breath is like the wind, determining the direction of nature, and deciding which way life goes. Which way you go.
But this beautiful orchestra of activity seldom happens when we just force our body to do things that don’t make sense. Ask somebody why they do what they do for exercise. “Well for my heart rate, for my knee, my back, my yadda-yadda.” Rarely do we ever tie it back to, “how is this movement relative to your daily life?” To understand this would be to show great humility and entrust another with your body. And maybe that’s what you need, some education and some coaching on where your body is and where it would benefit for you to have it. A dropping of your ego is the only requirement to achieve success and growth in your body.
Remember- you’re a human first, mover second, athlete last. First learn what it means to be a human. To take care of the temple that is your body. Your muscles are only part of the equation. Learn about your organs, your emotions, oh…and your joints.
There are two paths. The one that doesn’t feed the body and the one that does. The one that feeds the body involves movement that constantly changes the shape and accessibility of your body. It builds your foundations of being a human being. It prioritizes your spine, your joints, and makes the whole system a well circulated and pumping machine. It isn’t a slave to you, and you are not a slave to it. It is your best friend, and it works for you. And because you have access to so much of its terrain, and understand its’ topology, you feel free to travel wherever you like and do whatever you want.
The other path is the one of serious neglect and avoidance. This one does not feed your body what it needs. It instead force feeds it whatever it is you need. And so you over train or under train, and you do so much that your joints start to feel bothered. This is them talking to you. Listen to the wisdom of the bones. Don’t wait until its too late. Don’t wait until all of the connective tissue is run down and gone. Listen at the first sighting of distress and confusion. Your joints speaks up because they doesn’t have a voice. All they can do is give you a feeling of pain, or burning, or tingling, or numbness. Listen to it, and do something about it.
Seek help. Pursue healing. If you pursue that, all of the other pieces to your puzzle will fall into place. I guarantee it. Don’t ignore your body’s direct line of communication telling you to pay attention to it! All the exercise in the world won’t undo what you’ve already done to it. As a matter of fact, you may find yourself into a deeper hole.
The Way Out
The way out isn’t doing what the pros do or even what ‘fit people’ do. It isn’t exercising more, or exercising less. Its being intentional with your movement training, and developing a language for it. Building a mental model of your anatomy, an understanding of your body’s priorities, and learning to apply those changes into your daily behavior.
We rarely take the time to be still with our body. We’d rather rush to the next activity with it. “No pain, no gain,” is a favorite motto of many, but what if the pain is telling you to, “slow down and pay attention to me!”? Professionals will say pain is a part of the process, and they are correct. But the best of the best cannot be the ones you take your body-training from. They are anomalies, they are the best at what they do, and most importantly, they have already done the work of inner-self exploration.
A 20 or 30 minute “routine” of “therapy exercises” may help short term, but it doesn’t address the root of the issue. It is too simplified! If you want change, if you want to feel good and happy in your skin, it is a slow and lengthy process. One which I might add, modern society doesn’t market or advocate for. We live in a fast-paced, results oriented world. But you’re working against 10-40 years of a habit, it’s stranglehold on your is much tighter than yours on it. So the first lesson is to be patient with whats going on.
Be patient with your joints. And start to recognize what they do, and what they don’t. Observe how you sue them, or how you don’t. And most importantly, learn to go slow with your body. And if it makes you anxious, or uncomfortable…all the more reason to spend time with it.
This is your way out. It is also your way in. Out of pain, and into your power. Out of the stress and into the strength. Out of the limited and into the limitless. Stop running from yourself and instead try walking toward yourself.
You have a body, so you’re already half way there.
Now all you need is some guidance, and with time on your side, patience. If you can achieve this…you’ll get what you want out of your physical health.
And your joints will thank you for it for the rest of your life.