We don’t have to age in pain. We don’t have to end our lives in disease, incapacity and incompetence. We don’t have to relinquish our quality of life to a standard definition or sentence of aging.
There is more. There is better. There is choice.
The real fountain of youth is awareness and the rich potential that can be realized. Through awareness there is enormous potential for living a much higher quality of life from start to finish.
What’s it going to take? Choice.
What I’m alluding to is nothing new. It’s a practice that is available to all of us.
It’s a practice that is potentially life-altering.
Not just living longer – we can do that – living better.
I am re-defining what it means to be any age. I’m not alone. I have alot of company; like-minded spirits who practice, teach and live this choice.
Is it easy? Some moments easier than others. Some issues feel impossible but I know they are not. I know that the more I pay attention, the more I notice, the more likely I am to catch tension or poor usage before it becomes habitual.
This practice is a neuromuscular one. Our nervous system is designed to protect us and to move us forward, but only in small doses.
Protection, also referred to as our “fight-or-flight” response not only creates a biochemical reaction, but a neuromuscular one as well, one we know very well. When we feel threatened to any degree, the muscles in the front of our bodies contract. This threat can be so great that we find ourselves in the fetal position without realizing it or it can be so subtle that our conscious minds may not have even registered it, but our bodies did and tension was created.
Our call to action is the physical flip side of protection; it opens us up. To open us in the front, the muscles in the back of the body must contract – back of the neck, shoulders and upper back, lower back and hamstrings. Every so often our system tells us, “Go! Now!” – save that little girl from the burning building, get on that airplane and follow your love, sign that contract, buy in to that opportunity.
Our bodies were not designed to live with these responses day in and day out. Here is where the most detrimental wear and tear occurs. When we either live in high alert in defense or in action. Muscles are contracting more and more often until it becomes habitual. Now we don’t choose, our subconscious chooses for us. What happens when you contract a muscle constantly? Fatigue and pain. Hardening and weakness. In his book, Somatics, Thomas Hanna refers to this a maladaption. Instead of my muscles releasing the tension after the threat is gone or action is needed, I remain in a constant state of high alert and I never completely release.
It is in my nature to pay attention to my body. That didn’t stop me from developing chronic tension and pain, however I have learned two things: what my tension/stress triggers are and that I have a choice in how I respond beyond my instinctive reflex. Now the real adventure begins. Now I get to re-prioritize the structure of my life and choose how I will adapt to stress. It makes a difference.
Relaxation is no longer an indulgence that I’ll get to, if I can – if I have time.
If I don’t learn to practice relaxation every day, I’m going to wind up with the typical stiff-jointed walk of many – too many, middle-aged women and the quadruple bypass surgery my dad had. If I don’t learn to release not only from my body but also from my mind and emotions, I’m going to wind up permanently fatigued, too tired to dance; too tired to have a life much less enjoy it. Nor is relaxation the 5 minutes at the end of a yoga class.
Relaxation has actually never been an indulgence.
How am I adapting to the stress in my life?
How do I use my body?
What are my habits?
Where do I hold tension?
Where is there chronic pain?
How does my body feel after daily situations? After a meeting? After a phone call? After a last minute schedule change? After disappointment?
Stress will always be in my life. Paying attention and creating deep awareness of how I respond is how I choose to derail the “inevitable”.
Not age and certainly not death – but the journey.