I have recently been introduced to a book on exercise by Daniel Lieberman, a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University. He asserts that humans never evolved to exercise, that we are inherently lazy. I love this assertion not just because it’s based on science and research, but because it relieves the burden of such mantras as “No Pain No Gain” and “Just Do It”, inauthentic mantras built to market exercise not to support healthy movement. Even though we have not evolved to exercise, exercise done with proper alignment and knowledge of body mechanics helps slow aging and increase health. Lieberman also showed that rest is very beneficial, but sometimes we must really push ourselves to overcome inertia, drag out butts to the mat, exercise for our health.
Our yoga practice does not support pushing through pain, or just doing it no matter what. It invites us to exercise with authenticity and encourages us to practice with awareness. To listen so we can move with knowledge. To listen so we can rest with consciousness. It’s tempting to practice without really listening, to practice through injury and pain or emotional distress. But if we practice without listening then we are not practicing authentically. An authentic practice gives you choice to create a practice that’s sustainable through all your incarnations. An authentic practice is one you customize to nourish yourself wherever you’re at physically, energetically, and emotionally. Modifying our practices and our lives so we can exercise or rest, for injury, stress, aging, joy and exuberance may be the ultimate test of our ability to be authentically in the moment with our true selves, to listen so we are in support of our long-term health.
Our yoga practice is a wonderful opportunity to help overcome inertia...you get to practice with others. A community of people driven or dragged to their mats. Sharing their authentic practice in their own way -- silent and meditative, laughing and smiling, or a bit of all that. Deeply listening to support exercising with authenticity. I’ll leave you with a final quote from Daniel Liberman to encourage your practice no matter what excuse you come up with or age you attain.
“By following deep and ancient instincts to avoid the discomfort that comes with physical exertion, we increase the chances that we will senesce faster and die younger, and we become more vulnerable to many diseases and chronic, disabling illnesses. We also miss out on the vigor, both physical and mental, that comes from being fit.”
Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health by Daniel Lieberman