Life is in constant flux; life is movement. As a movement, we journey, we travel, and are fortunate to enjoy sights and wonders as we move towards our perfect sweet spot.
There are hundreds of destinations we could travel to on this planet, and there are hundreds of ways to move our bodies to reach a state of balance, homeostasis, and peak performance. I think it’s important to emphasize that what works for one body, doesn’t work for every body. Hong Kong, my motherland, stimulates and excites some, whereas it overstimulates and overwhelms me. My point is, when seeking out your “perfect” workout regime (or anything, for that matter), make sure you’re always doing you. Absolutely, be inspired by others, their bodies, their workouts, their mindset, but always check in with yourself whether something is to your benefit or detriment. After all, only you would know what you’re all about, and you’re already fabulous.
Another caveat: our bodies change and evolve. I think it’s easy to place limits on ourselves: who we can become, how we can feel in our bodies. Sometimes these limits are real, and keep us safe. Other times, they're learned or just completely un-true, and we can block ourselves and discourage ourselves from even trying to reach for peak performance.
When I was young, I was chubby and overweight. They called me “Teddy”. As an adolescent I struggled with insomnia and eating disorders, and played a lot of high impact tennis, ran track, and went to the gym. At the age of 24 I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder (fibromyalgia), and my body became weak and unable to engage in any rigorous physical activity without the backlash of debilitating pain, exhaustion, and emotional whiplash. This phase lasted for a few years. My body became catabolic, and no matter what I did, weight continued to fall away.
Suffice it to say, my body has fluctuated and evolved throughout the years, and it’s been a long, and at times twisted, journey to health. I’m happy to say that presently, I’ve never been happier or felt healthier, and so through this blog post, I hope to inspire you to discover new ways of moving that excite and awaken your own senses. No matter where you are in your journey, there is a movement practice that will support you to new levels of wellness. I invite you to be inspired, and become your own curator!
Results of Creating Your Own "Perfect" Workout Regime
- Greater posture and confidence/comfort in one’s own body
- A strong body - (who doesn’t like feeling like a badass beast?)
- A relaxed and flexible body that knows how to release tension - because come on, we ain't boddhisattvas yet - tension is a part of life.
- A focused and clear mind - I believe a lot of our poor habits, such as emotional eating, and even casual drug foreplay, comes from simply not using or challenging our bodies in ways that are personally beneficial. Our energy is often in a frenzy because we’re not physically moving enough energy throughout the day. Energy is locked in our minds, and I imagine pinball occurring inside the skull from all the overthinking and analysis paralysis we normalize into our day-to-day living.
- Peak levels of energy - waking up, feeling refreshed, not needing a nap, and feeling stable in our energy. Deeeelish.
Yogis love to use the term bodymind. Inherent in this term is the fact that the body and the mind are one and the same - they are so connected there shouldn’t even have a space or a hyphen between them. In a nutshell, change your mindset, and your body will follow. Open your body, and your mind will also open. Ever met a tight ass with a tight ass?
The body and the mind mutually influence one another in a beautiful biofeedback loop; imagine an infinity symbol constantly turning in on itself. Shifts occur in in the body or in the mind through our will, and are reinforced via our emotions.
Okay, now that the foundation is set, I’m going to wax just a little more poetic as I share what has become a great structure for my own peak performance. You’ve been warned, I will get a little gooey over this, the same way one might wax poetic over a new lover.
I started rock climbing recently. I’m 230% hooked. I’ve come to the conclusion it is the perfect lover, and knight in shining armour, for a yogi. It is far more interesting than going to the gym, a great place to master fear, and an exciting way to strengthen one's back. It's highly social in a positive environment - we help one another sort out body puzzles, and you have to trust your belay partner to keep you from realizing the force of gravity. I think there's something magical that happens when you can safely experience fear, and overcome it by climbing even higher. There's a crew of cheerleaders on the ground, and "failing", aka slipping and swinging like Tarzan or Jane, is part of the thrill. You're forced to look up, which I think metaphorically speaking, is far better than always looking down.
While in yoga we often press away from the ground to lift us up, in climbing we pull towards the rock to lift us up. In climbing, we need to be flexible to reach that next foothold, but by and large we are contracting, and at times launching ourselves through fear, to get to the next hold. In yoga we contract our muscles, but we also take time to lengthen and relax, to soften. Both movement practices are challenging in their own right, and complement one another so sweetly.
When you finish a climbing route, the hit of dopamine is like 100 likes on your Facebook post in the span of a minute. You feel like a warrior of the Earth. At the end of the session, there is this emptiness filled with peace that makes all of the world your home. The next day, my body feels like it went through an intense boxing workout, and I love that I achieve this feeling without actually being violent. I strangle the rocks, and they help pull me higher. I can't wait to get outside to climb. As a lover of the outdoors, the idea of hiking through woods to climb sends me to cloud 9 happy anticipation.
Ok, enough of that. Without further adieu, here are my 4 pillars I’ve gleaned from my anecdotal subjective experience, in how to find your own best movement practice:
1. Embrace Challenge & Failure
It’s taken me a lot of exploration and a lot of failure to be who I am today. I've learned to really embrace failure - communication breakdowns, work failures, artistic failures...It keeps me humble in appreciating I’m not even close to where I want to be, and I’m actually really happy with that. It doesn’t cause me upset or agony anymore. It gives me a journey to look forward to.
Some of humanity's greatest minds say that embracing failure is necessary for success. As an overeducated law school drop out, I believe that the most important lessons I’ve learned were through experiences of failure. Experience is our greatest teacher, and I believe is necessary for meaningful evolution towards self-actualization.
Failure is inevitable as an entrepreneur, and honestly I think an entrepreneurial mindset is healthy for everyone, considering the state of the world. So get cozy with failure, get to know yourself as you try and fail, and please, be kind!
In yoga, we never really “get there” - there’s always deeper to go, or holding a pose for longer. Climbing is 80% failure, and I have a feeling this rate is probably on par with entrepreneurial projects. But it’s that 80% failure rate that makes the 20% moment so meaningful! After waiting for so long for "success", you’ll fall to the ground in tears when you "make it", whatever "making it" means to you.
I also love the phrase, “I never lose; I win, or I learn.”
Perhaps next time you fail, remind yourself you are learning, and that is a beautiful thing.
2. Learn How to Relax
In my darkest moments in my journey through fibromyalgia, there was this golden nugget where I finally had no other option but to accept my decrepit state, and learn how to relax in the intolerable pain I found myself in. Yoga was the only thing I could do for a couple years to stabilize my fear and anxiety.
Keeping in mind there are many ways to practice yoga, a few practices have really gotten me to new ways of being:
1. Yin Yoga
In any stretch, find your body’s “edge”. I always encourage my students to bring themselves into a stretch to 8/10 in sensation, where 10 is excruciating pain. With deep belly breaths, your body will relax and soften deeper into the stretch, in its own time. There is no forcing in Yin Yoga, and I think that's a great philosophy for most of life.
The skill we are learning here is how to soften, and even surrender, into discomfort, thereby transforming it from tension into ease. This transferable skill eventually follows us off the mat, so that eventually something as simple and intimate as a deep belly breath can soften us in life’s most challenging moments. It’s not about eradicating anxiety (after all, it’s pretty freaky we are alive and conscious), it’s about learning how to navigate anxiety with as much ease as possible. It's about pressing pause so we can choose love, over and over again.
2. Yoga Nidra/Body Scan
“Nidra” translates in Sanskrit to “sleep”. Welcome to sleep yoga! When I was an insomniac, this sounded like a pipe dream. I’ll either meditate, or fall asleep. Win/win!!!
There are so many ways to meditate. When our mind is very busy, a meditation practice of active imagery can assist in our focusing. (Come to one of my Restorative Yoga classes sometime! You’ll experience what I mean, as well as foundations of Yoga Nidra).
Once we are deeper in our practice, and our ability to observe ourselves passively without engaging with thoughts or feelings is more engrained, we can progress into a meditative practice where we simply observe whatever is there, and then release whatever we find. I still make time to just “let go” of everything, and I mean everything, even the good things that get me excited about life. (Have you ever been so excited about something that it actually agitates you?) I believe in the adage that if we let something go and it remains, it is meant for us. A lot of the clutter in our life can just pass through and not be in our bodymind at all.
Underlying the much needed skill of relaxing, I’ve discovered, is the faith that life is good and will take care of you. It begins in your mind, in your belief systems.
Life thinks you’re worth it, but do you?
Take time to reflect on what your core beliefs are about spirituality, and what it means, for you, to be a spiritual being.
3. Eat Well
"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food" (Hippocrates).
Eat food that actually nourishes you. Be reasonable. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT militant about my diet. I shoot for the 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time, and then treat yourself, guilt free, 20% of the time. It’s also much easier to treat yourself guilt free if you’ve actually put in the work to biologically need those extra calories you’re wanting to gorge on. Your desire for that almond croissant is not so irrational when you’ve burned so many calories eating anything is fuel for your body. And trust me, I "YOLO" to almond croissants on the regular.
We digest food, and we also digest (or process) emotions and thoughts (remember, bodymind - no separation). So make sure you’re creating opportunities to win emotionally and mentally - invest time into mutual and reciprocal relationships that make you feel good, and inspire you with positive, fresh ideas.
Limit how much time and energy you share with energetic vampires or Debbie Downers. Remember to put your own oxygen mask on first, and better yet, hang out with others that have their own oxygen tank full. Give from excess, and not when you’re exhausted. You wouldn’t want your pilot to be exhausted, running on empty, endangering your life as you’re on your way to your next vacation, so don't do this to your loved ones either. Take care of yourself relentlessly, which means saying YES sometimes, and saying NO at other times.
Eating properly is such a no brainer...but the world isn’t in the state it is because the knowledge isn’t out there, so…
4. Get to Know Yourself
We all have hopes, dreams, aspirations, and talents. We also all experience, fear, anxiety, confusion, and lack of clarity. The question is, why? Our answers are uniquely ours, and self-understanding is key to self-empowerment. Until you understand your why, you’re likely to treat symptoms rather than address the root of the issue. Just like a weed, if you don’t pull out the root system, the weed will grow back.
Here’s where meditation and therapy can be so, so useful. I resisted therapy in my adolescence, but as I’ve matured, have learned to embrace it. There are simply some experiences that your friends will not be able to hold space for, and a professional is warranted. There’s no shame in going to therapy, if anything I think it signifies a very mature and brave individual who is ready to take ownership over how they experience life. A therapeutic alliance has been key for me to move from victimhood and into creative director of my own life. Everything is a CHOICE.
Human beings are fascinatingly complex. There’s "what we know we know", "what we know we don’t know", and perhaps an even larger category of "what we don’t know that we don’t know". It’s all a process, and pieces will bubble up for integration. Take it one bubble at a time, and remember to chew.
I believe a “perfect” movement practice is a blend of yin/yang. My yang exercise on the rock is so yang, it has me breathing heavy, grunting and sometimes even cursing. It helps me release pent up energy, and I work it out on the rock. I swing so far yang, that I need the yin of yoga to bring me back to balance. Yoga helps me recover quicker, and conditions my muscles to be long yet strong so I can progress even more in my climbing, and sooner. (Yes, I am competitive, but mostly with myself.)
I invite you to reflect and assess for yourself whether your lifestyle and workout regime is more yin or yang, and perhaps that will give you some clues as to which direction to move in to reach your next level of peak performance.
I love cross training.
I start every day with a hike with my crazy puppy, Rupert. When my body has recovered enough, I rock climb, lift weights, and occasionally engage in martial arts. In between, I’ll swim, paddleboard, dance, and of course, I yoga every damn day.
Call me a Movement Glutton-ista - I love trying out new ways to move, and embrace new challenges to overcome that reinforce my realization of how incredible our bodies are.
Oh, excuse me. How incredible bodyminds are.
I hope this post has inspired you to get creative with your movement practice, and most importantly, get moving!
With reverence and heaps of namaste's,
Got questions or comments? Hit me up! I’d love to hear what works for you.