As we begin this New Year, I thought it might be interesting to give a sample of some of my exercise classes. I work with people who are generally looking to find that elusive element that helps us create healthier patterns. We begin our first class with a discussion on the word engage:
Definition of engage
1: to offer (something, such as one's life or word) as backing to a cause or aim : to expose to risk for the attainment or support of some end engaged his all in the king's cause
2a: obsolete : to entangle or entrap in or as if in a snare or bog
b: to attract and hold by influence or power
c: to interlock with : MESH also : to cause(mechanical parts) to mesh engage the clutch
3: to bind (someone, such as oneself) to do something especially : to bind by a pledge to marry
4a: to provide occupation for : INVOLVE engage him in a new project
b: to arrange to obtain the use or services of : HIRE engage a lawyer
5a: to hold the attention of : ENGROSS her work engages her completely
b: to induce to participate engaged the shy boy in conversation
6a: to enter into contest or battle with engage the enemy
b: to bring together or interlock(weapons)
7: to deal with especially at length
1a: to pledge oneself : PROMISE b: to make a guarantee he engages for the honesty of his brother
2a: to begin and carry on an enterprise or activity —used with in engaged in trade for many years
b: to do or take part in something —used with in engage in healthy activities engage in bad conduct
c: to give attention to something : DEAL failing to engage with the problem
3: to enter into conflict or battle
4: to come together and interlock the gears engaged
Why the word engage? When I say engage your muscles, I am talking about keeping them at attention, so that they can come together and interlock, to use them, for the support of some end. I am asking you to engage your mind to learn something new. With that end in mind, you will notice that I always have Rosemary and lemongrass diffusing while I am writing or asking people to engage. You may remember me talking about them from my December article. They are what I call elasticizing oils. And they will help you to focus, to bend, and to make room for new ideas and new experiences.
If you can, I want you to grab a piece of paper and walk across the room with the intent that you have 50 more things to do today and you are hurrying to get everything done.
Now, did you walk with momentum or strength?
When you walk with momentum, you are utilizing your weight to get you there. It is a common habit for all of us to fall into when we have been in a hurry for a few years and let’s face it. Life is all about hurrying these days. Hurry to work, hurry home, hurry up and fix dinner, hurry up and get in the car to take the kids to evening activities. Hurry home to get showers done, hurry up to get the kids in bed, hurry up and fall asleep so we can do it all again tomorrow.
But watch what happens when you walk with momentum. You are locking your knees, and you are twisting your back. Do you have issues with either of those two areas? You are not alone! We have hurried ourselves into achy bodies.
It was a common practice up until the depression in the early 1900’s for women to practice walking smoothly, usually balancing something on their head. And men were taught to walk with the back of their hand pressed against their lower spine. Watch what happens when you walk in a smooth fashion. The back stays in line, the knees stay bent. You are now walking with your body in complete balance. Your back stays aligned with your hips and is able to stay firm and straight. No pressure. No pain.
And here is another little tidbit. Have any of you studied native American history? They had a way of traveling that allowed them to walk or run for hours, and sometimes days, without the body going into shock or shutting down. And it was not just about training for it. When your muscles learn to stay engaged at attention they learn to move with a minimum of energy.
Lets stand up.
Now unlock your knees.
How many of you did not realize you even had your knees locked until I asked you to unlock them? Right? It is amazing just how unconscious habits are. We will be learning new habits in these workshops that are life changing.
We are going to start with engaging our walking muscles. As you stand there, I want you to stiffen the muscles in your toes, now feet. Now in your calves. And now in your thighs. And your back. If you have locked your knees again, please unlock them. Now I want you to release your back muscles, thigh muscles, now your calves, and now your feet, and your toes. Let’s do it again; engage your toe muscles, foot muscles, calve muscles, thigh muscles, back muscles…now release the back muscles, thigh muscles, calve muscles, foot muscles, and toe muscles. You are training your body to engage and disengage.
I am now going to ask each of you to walk across the front of the room and back to your chair with your toes, foot, calf, thigh, and back muscles engaged and your knees unlocked.
There may be some of you who are already feeling a charley horse coming on. Ease the tension but keep your muscles engaged. You are not carrying a hundred lbs…yet!
If you have managed to keep your knees unlocked this entire time, you will notice that they do not hurt like they usually do. This is because you have let your muscles do the work instead of your ligaments. The ligaments are meant to keep us together, the muscles are meant to move us. Used the way they are meant to be used, we are already more comfortable. When you put the pressure of the weight of your body on the ligaments in your knee, you are stretching them to their maximum point, and just like a rubber band, if you keep them that way, they will lose their elasticity. That being said, we can go back to the faith is in the knowing, unlike the rubber band, we can re-engage the elasticity of the ligaments. So have faith that there is always a solution. It is that seed thing…
Now here is something really cool, and it is the first lesson on weight training without the weights. I want you to engage your toes, feet, calves and thighs as you are walking across the room. And release. Now I want you to engage those muscles like you are carrying 50 lbs across the room. And release. And now imagine that you have 100lbs that needs to go across the room. And release. You can tell your muscles to work out as heavily as you want at any point in your day. You can literally sit at your desk and engage and disengage each of those muscles with the precise weight you wish them to work out at. Is that not just absolutely fascinating? It is always amazing to me just how adaptable we are. As you practice this, you will notice that your muscles become just as sore as if you had been at an actual weightlifting routine, so have your muscle salves handy at the end of the day.
Next month we will cover upper body and balance, but first I want to leave you with one more quick exercise.
How many of you remember Jumping Jacks in school? They are what I consider the single most important exercise there is. Jumping Jacks stimulate our lymphatic system. Let me explain how that works for those who don’t know. The lymphatic system is known as our “Tree of Life”. Everyone knows that our hearts keep pumping every second of every day for our entire lives. What most of us did not know is that the lymphatic system is what keeps it fed so that it maintains its strength and health over our entire lives. So your lymphatic system looks similar to your cardiovascular system, but it has about 600 to 700 precisely placed lymphatic glands that feed not only our cardiovascular system but every organ in our body. Long Story short, Glands in the lymphatic system are placed near the digestive organs, so that when we have digested food into minute little particles they pass through the lining into the lymphatic system, which then feeds those nutrients where they are needed in the body. We will go into the lymphatic system in more detail at a later date but for now we will settle for that little nugget.
Now here is the kicker. The lymphatic system only flows upward to release nutrients, and it has to be pumped. Let’s say you have been sitting at your desk for an hour and you are getting sleepy or losing concentration. Simply get up and do a half dozen jumping jacks and you will start the lymphatic system pumping again, sending you more nutrients for energy. If you can’t get up, don’t worry, you can still pump your arms and get it activated too!
Let’s try pumping our arms. It is now easier to take a deep breath, and some of you may have felt a bit of a head rush. All of you feel more energized. And you did not even get out of your chairs! Who knew we had our own little energizer bunny inside us?
I am looking forward to an energetic and transformative year. I hope this helps you transform how you think of your muscles in the future and how we can improve our communication with our bodies. Have a great January!