Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gift of Exercise

My friend Mary* has been feeling stressed out and fatigued. She’s been complaining of low energy and forgetting things, like our appointment for personal training this morning. It’s the holidays, so its not uncommon. Trying to meet the family’s expectations by getting just the right gifts, decorating perfectly, while also trying not to disappoint our friends by showing up to all the holiday parties can extract a large toll on us.

Along with fatigue, Mary is surprised at how irritable she’s feeling. Even the things she usually enjoys, like baking cookies with her kids, test her patience. She has also been waking up earlier than usually with her thoughts spinning around her to-do list and what she may have forgotten. These are typical symptoms of stress. If you have been experiencing any of this, there are some things you can do to help yourself. One of the simplest ways is to move your body.

For Mary, since she’s already a member at the wellness center, I suggested she make the time to take a spinning class. The high energy cardiovascular bicycling workout will eat up those stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin, which may be contributing to her irritability. When she argued that she just didn’t have time for all that right now, I reminded her that exercising actually boosts her energy level, so she’ll have more go-juice to get all that Christmas shopping done. Also, there's a good chance all that stress will weaken her immune system and BLAM! she's down for the count with the annual bout of bronchitis.

When she wakes up early in the morning, I recommended she start the day with some simple yoga, nothing pretzel-like. Before even getting out of bed, she practices pelvic tilts, known as bridge pose. While lying on her back, she places her feet flat on the bed with knees bent, hip distance apart, with her arms along side her body, palms down. She gently lifts her hips off the bed and lowers them back down 4 – 8 times, trying gently to lift them a little higher now and again. Then, she rolls over into a sitting position, legs extended out in front of her. While sitting up tall on top of her sits bones (those two bony points at the base of your pelvis), she eases herself into a forward fold, resting her hands on her thighs and hinging forward at the hips. She can also place a couple of pillows on her lap and rest there for 1 minute, gradually building up to 3 minutes. This pose is very helpful if you have been dealing with sadness or depression, also common during the holidays.

If you don’t have a gym membership, you can get some cardiovascular exercise in by going for a walk in the park or around the block; about 30 minutes a day is ideal. If it’s too cold outside, go to a mall or a local department store and grab a cart. If your mobility is limited, there are simple chair exercises you can do like seated leg lifts, spinal twists and even just raising your arms over your head several times. There’s no excuse not to move, and it will bring you some of that holiday peace everyone is talking about and we all need this time of year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

If it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. . .

The other day my husband emailed me this:

"Interesting perspective. . .and the source of the quote "it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg"

You'll need to follow the link above if you want to understand the following rant, which is my response to this gentleman's writings.

The author assumes there is an empirical morality -- as defined by him. And he takes "live and let live" to an absurd conclusion: everything is okay. It most definitely is not okay. That's not the point, regardless. In order to establish the moral boundaries of "live and let live" we have to be open to dialogue - period. That means listening to a different point of view without immediately labeling it 'stupid'. As my friend Stacey pointed out the other day, "I can disagree with you and still think you're an intellegient person." Amen, sister. And, maybe, just maybe, the Christian-Judea values need to be revisited and maybe they're incomplete -- let's even admit that they need to be more fully explored in a modern context. I mean, according to the Bible we're not supposed to suffer a witch to live. Sooooo, what is a 'witch'? And are we supposed to kill one when we see one? What about that "thou shalt not kill" thing? What about our Wiccan friends? My point is, we need to have an open mind and a willingness to negotiate, and re-negotiate as necessary.

Having said that, let's take a point from the Wiccan creed "As it harm none, do what you will." Sounds similar to the "live and let live" philosophy, right? It can also apply to your thoughts, if you believe that the mind has power, which the Wiccan's do believe. So, the Wiccan is encouraged to "tend the garden of his mind", much like the Buddhist, to protect himself just as much as the subject of his thoughts. Because, there's another Wiccan belief that what energy you send out into the world comes back to you three times.

But you know what? Its all semantics and verbal snowball fighting: the gist of it is (and always has been) how do we function as a group? How do we meet our individual needs and the needs of the group at the same time? How do we "just get along"? I believe the only way to do it is to take personal responsibility of ourselves. And, unfortunately for same of the anarchist libertarians, that means sometimes deferring to the greater good. That's how society has survived all these milenia . Compromise. But here's where I agree with our sanctimonious author (see link to article): we have to do it voluntarily or it will be imposed on us through legal means.

Take charity, for example. We are being taxed highly to take care of those who, for various reasons, are unable or unwilling to take care of themselves. Our charities failed at some point and now self-perpetuating government agencies have taken on our responsibilities. This is where churches filled a very important need (and still do) in America, but churches can't carry all of the burden, for numerous reasons. And some of the liberal ideas about charity are to "save the whales" or offer "art in the park". I'm not saying there aren't valid reasons for these kinds of things, but there are more pressing priorities, like providing food, shelter, medical care and a basic education. Ridiculous amounts of resources are wasted on "charitable" ventures that do little more than make a committee feel good about itself. Good grief.

You and I both know that what's happening is the great self-centered movement in American. Whatever a person's particular belief system, its become all about "me". Even the self-hating liberals and Christians (yes, they share that particular character flaw) do it for show -- and to assuage their own guilt: "it hurts me to see them suffer so I will rescue them so I can feel better about myself". But if the charitable act does nothing towards fixing the problem or worse exacerbates it, it is truly a selfish act.

Obviously, I'm generalizing and its not fair to lump everyone together -- there are liberals and Christians who truly care about others, but I'm making a point, so please be patient.

There's something else, something beyond all this pettiness - and I truly believe that when we stop seeing ourselves as only separate entities -- when we see ourselves as part of the whole, we will have new things to argue about.

LOL! Why do I take myself so seriously?

Love you!