Is pushing yourself to work-out a punishment or an act of love?

If your exercise jam isn’t pleasurable, here’s a download that can change not only how you exercise, but more importantly how kind you are to yourself in the process.

Unfortunately so many of the exercise options out there are championed by the slogan “no pain, no gain” coupled with a kind of discipline that’s crippled with self-loathing. Even in the mind-body-spirit arenas, there’s performance pressure to perfect yoga poses, instead of enjoy them.

While I know how important pleasurable movement is in my own life, last summer I opted to go hard and work out like a maniac to get rid of some stubborn rolls…..until my adrenals were totally fatigued. Not only did I not lose weight, I got sick.

So this summer, I’m changing my game plan…. not only because last year’s plan didn’t work but because I was reminded why pleasure is an essential part of feeling at home in my body without stressing it.

Earlier this spring, I had the chance to train with Jean Louis Rodrigue – a top coach for some big wig Hollywood actors and public speakers.

In short, Jean Louis helps people to connect to their bodies in a way that’s animalistic, so they feel fully, freely and completely themselves without pretense (similar to my work in Permission Sessions!).

I loved how Jean-Louis’s named three different ways of being in the body, and I want to share them with you so you can define for yourself if your work-outs are punishment or pleasurable:

1 – Punishing your body: This is forcing your body into compliance. (Hard core work outs anyone?)

2 – Body Beautiful:  When your body becomes an obsession. You create a mask and disappear behind it. (Remember the blog I wrote last month about smiling when you don’t feel like it?)

3 – Your Body is You: This is what animals are.  They are directly themselves and they don’t how to be anyone else.  They are the full version of themselves in their environment.

Just like animals, we were once all “full versions” of ourselves as babies.  But as humans, our rational minds socialize us and hold us back from being in our bodies.

Have you ever noticed how animals don’t judge themselves? Can you imagine a jaguar thinking she’s too slutty or too prude? Or how about an aardvark telling herself she needs to run laps all day long?

Funny how we humans are masters at judging ourselves and then punishing our bodies into compliance with hard core work-outs that can go against our nature.

While there’s no doubt movement is essential for physical health, obsessive work outs may actually be contributing to stress levels, preventing you from feeling good…. and peaceful.

Here’s the nitty gritty on why pushing your body doesn’t address anxiety or stress biochemically or on an emotional level:

Muscle spindles (sensory receptors within the belly of a muscle that primarily detect changes in the length of this muscle) are sending messages via neurons to the muscles to contract.

When you push your body to work out hard, and stretch your muscle tissue, the muscle spindal sends alpha-neurons to send messages to your brain for big actions – for a long stretch in the muscle tissue. The alpha-neurons however are not connected to your lymbic system (the part of you that feels emotions), and you by pass your ability to feel. So with extreme muscle actions, your feelings remain unexpressed in your body and anxiety continues.

But there’s good news, which can change the way you workout to reach both physical and emotional well being:

Other brain messengers, called gamma neurons, are the neurons that send messages for small actions/movements.  These neurons are activated with small muscle movements have a relationship with the lymbic system – your emotions!  So when we move our muscles with small movements, it allows us to feel our emotions. When we feel our emotions, we can release anxiety physically as well as emotionally.

Moral of the story?

Slow movement (go gamma neurons!).  Allow yourself to feel (go lymbic brain!).

And watch your stress and anxiety melt away while your body gets the pleasure of moving.

PS: if you apply the same principles to your sensual life, you’ll no doubt get heathly emotional satisfaction instead of just an endorphin rush.

Here’s to feeling free this summer!

Some of the information in my blog is from the training I received in Peter’s Somatic Experiencing work (somatic meaning ‘of the body’). Peter’s work is based on the fact that humans are animals, and we prevent ourselves from our body’s natural ways of releasing emotional and physcial blocks because of our cognitive minds. His methods allow the body to come back to it’s natural self-healing mechanisms – the science of this is explained in his book, Waking the Tiger.

The other information was gleaned from experiential workshops I participated in with Jean-Louis Rodrigue who teaches another kind of somatic (body work) called Alexander Technique. He’s adapted the Alexander Technique to include the natural embodiment of wild animals.

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