In honor of joining a new gym, the Evanston Athletic Club, here are thirteen thoughts about the body and being in it.
1. Stress is a fact of life. It is dangerous, because it causes the body to secrete chemicals that are harmful to it, but that are helpful in the fight/flight response. This is necessary for survival; however, too much of it can create harm long term.
2. One of the ways to combat stress is to make an effort to get into the body. If you are great at this, you probably don’t need to read the rest of my post. But if you, like me, sorta suck at it, then read on.
3. Yoga is one of the ways I’ve found that helps me get into my body. I don’t have to “do” anything actively, which is counter-intuitive for an intense person like me, but as I follow the instructions of the teacher (in a group class), I find that I can unhook my mind’s chatter and just do the poses.
4. Being in the body isn’t spectacular, or earth-shaking. It’s quiet. At the end of yoga class, for example, I don’t leap up filled with an epiphany or anything (or, at least, haven’t YET), but I feel calmer and more centered.
5. There is a difference between Grounding and Centering. Grounding is merging your energy with that of the earth and the world around us, and is an act of connection. Centering is pulling our attention and energy back into the physical center, what the Chinese call the Dantian.
6. We have a lot we can learn from the Chinese and Indian philosophies of the body.
7. Massage is another great tool for stress management and physical health. In particular, related to stress, the muscles and connective tissue form something called adhesions in the fascia. If you imagine the fascia as a strip of stretchy fabric or canvas, it wraps around the muscles. It should move smoothly across the muscles and not get stuck. In the process of exercising or being stressed, collagen deposits act like glue between this fascia and the muscle fibers and literally adhere them together. This is what accounts for the crunchy feeling when you run your knuckles along the big muscle of your thigh. Breaking them up can be a tad unpleasant, but will help you feel a LOT better and looser.
8. Trigger points suck. But if you find a good massage therapist that knows trigger point therapy, keep them!! (The therapist, not the trigger point.)
9. Swimming is good food. I find that floating on my back, using my legs to kick gently and my arms to guide myself along the lanes, helps my neck to relax. It takes a while, like sometimes thirty or forty minutes, but it really helps with stress and pain associated with computer work.
10. Chinese Baoding balls help prevent, or manage, carpal tunnel syndrome and other tendonitis associated with typing too much and knitting too much. They’re tricky to explain, but I did find a You Tube that might help. (As I watched it, I thought, I could do a You Tube – the Noonychannel!)
11. I actually HAVE a Noony channel. Not much is on it, just a video about Chuck the Sheep (no, it’s not salacious in any way and yes, it really is about a sheep), and a poor attempt at my first movie… with a twist… (Yes, video quality is awful, but a) it was my phone, and b) I don’t know anything about video production.)
12. The Noony channel has nothing to do with managing stress. Or being in the body.
13. I begin to see my problem. Attention span much?