Over the years we constantly see reminders of how pain equals results, particularly in the fitness industry but by no means does it only exist there. It seems to be the general mantra of how we are expected to live our lives... work harder, push further, do more; who needs sleep anyway (the not so secret antidote to a capitalist society's success, but I shall leave this one for another time). With our way of lives being forced to shift over this year I ask the question, when does more pain just mean more pain and no gain?
I have a desire, maybe verging on a mild obsession to explore as many ways of moving as possible, with ease and allowing us to take more space. In this endeavour I have found myself moving further and further away from movement practices that centre around the notion of pain or pushing through. Not to say they don't have their benefits but over the years I seem to have become more and more resistant to this way of working. As always curiosity overtakes me and I find myself asking why?
As a professional dancer a lot of my early days of training and work created an approach to movement that required a huge amount of physical energy, effort and pushing through extremes. As I got a little older I started to think that there must be another way, a way that honours my body and still challenges it but doesn't make it feel like it's breaking or I have to punish it.
I started to become curious about the sensation of my body, feeling my body through movement as opposed to executing shapes. Each movement as part of an expression, a need to communicate with both myself and the world. Expectation slipped away and instead a new intimacy appeared with my body where I could allow myself to experience movements I have done a million times, as if it was the first time. Now I don't do this all the time as that would be highly exhausting but I offer myself moments, making a cup of tea, a walk to the shop, my weekly tai chi class. I often find 2 ways that can help me...
Going deeper inwards. Becoming aware of the more internal smaller sensations of my body.
Opening my eyes wider. Becoming more aware of the space my body is occupying and what I can see and sense in the space as I move.
Our bodies are constantly put through stress and tension on a day to day basis physically but maybe even more so mentally, so why add to this? Sometimes I wonder whether our strength is actually tension and only through tension are we creating strength. As if our strength can only exist if there is an element of pain. What about when our body is soft, relaxed, open. What kind of strength can we find here?
This interplay between pain and strength I find so intriguing. Is it really necessary that in order to grow, to become stronger, we have to administer or accept pain. Yes I believe pain is a part of living but do we have to consciously seek out more pain than is necessary to feel like we have achieved something or that it is worthwhile doing. Can something be worthwhile just because it is, without a focus towards an end goal but an openness to the process, in the knowledge that there will be growth, insight and new experiences that are yet to be known.
I desire to have a strength that is spacious, adaptable and open. A body that moves and expresses with freedom, a body that is alive and without guilt or shame.
Sometimes for me that means less pain more gain.
What are your desires for your body?