Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Nov 10, 2002

About Us
Contact Us
Magazine Published on Sundays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Quest | Folio |

Magazine

Printer Friendly Page Send this Article to a Friend

Awaken your seventh sense

The Fitness Instinct presents not just the most effective way to get healthy exercise but also a new way of thinking about your body and its needs. Based on 20 years of research by PEG JORDAN, one of the most respected leaders of the fitness industry, the book, her fifth, is a first-time compilation of current studies from the West along with modern-day insights into the oldest disciplines of the East. By following the 11-step method described, you will be able to enjoy a harmonious approach to keeping fit. Exclusive extracts.


AN old, wise woman in Chicago taught me my most precious lesson ever — how to listen to my intuition.

I sought her advice because I had been having one strange experience after another. Once, for instance, I was lying on my bed, waiting for a car full of friends to honk in front of the house. I rose from the bed, went to the window to see if they were there, turned to go back to the bed, and stopped dead in my tracks, staring at my entire body resting there. The awareness of what was occurring zapped through me, and suddenly I was snapped back into my body as if I'd been shot from a slingshot. Later, I realized how unusual this dream was because in it, I had a complete view from the window of all that was happening outside. I saw a fire truck sitting in the driveway and my neighbors gathering around it — events that I was able to confirm later ...

... Eventually, with the wise woman's help, I grew to trust the voice and know the difference between my own anxious mental chatter and that relentless gut feeling.

I'd like to pass on to you what she taught me.

You are no doubt familiar with the five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. The information we receive through our senses guides our actions, shapes our thinking, and forms our opinions. In addition to your five physical senses, you were born with intuition, your sixth sense.

There are times when your intuition is irrepressible, such as whenever you insist, "I don't know how I know, but I just do. Trust me." Most of the time, however, these intuitive hits come in discreet and quiet ways, gathered from physical sensations, quiet hunches, dreams, and pieces of memories entwined with mental wanderings, Intuition flourishes when we pause, notice, and listen a little more deeply. Intuition is a birthright we all have, and it's sharpened by learning how to decode the information that resides within our brains and bodies.

Awakening and developing your intuition starts with a deep appreciation of how your mind and body function as a harmonious unit — informing, warning, and sensing in subtle ways. This appreciation is also the gateway to your seventh sense, your fitness instinct. Our bodies are normally guided by this movement instinct, which begins the moment the life impulse enters a living creature and stirs throughout its life span.

I discovered this seventh sense when I experienced how the body, when unleashed from previous conditioning and judgment, has an innate wisdom about just what it needs or what it should do. Just as you must open yourself up to different ways of listening to tap into your sixth sense, you need to explore your connection with your body in new ways to reach your body's movement instinct. Here's the four-step process that will take you there.

Transfer authority back to yourself

Too many people let others "own" their bodies. They let spouses tell them how much to eat, and doctors tell them how much to exercise. To unleash your fitness instinct, you must ignore all of these outside sources of input and look deep within yourself. There you will find an internal source of motivation. Some may call this source an inner advisor, God, the Source, the higher self, or Tao. When you listen to this inner voice, you develop body authority, the confidence and inner power that come from knowing that you're the one in charge of your body and its well-being.

Body authority, sometimes called body sovereignty, is a concept used by therapeutic body workers when they are helping victims of sexual abuse or violence recover their autonomy and power. You needn't be a victim of abuse, however, in order to suffer a loss of body authority. Both popular culture and the fitness industry offer plenty of opportunities to siphon it off. So many of us have utterly abandoned any sense of self-authority when it comes to exercise that we have forgotten how and why to move.

Taking back authority is not easy these days. We're bombarded with so many medical findings, research studies, and so-called breakthroughs that we often wonder what really helps, what actions to take, and what sources to trust.

I am not saying that transference of authority is always inappropriate. Obviously, when we are learning a skill that we haven't yet mastered, depending on expert advice adds to our knowledge. Yet, we can't really break the pattern of automatically deferring to experts and other people unless we become aware of the moment of self-effacement and actively replace the automatic response. The next time you consult someone about anything, pause and ask yourself, "Is this an appropriate time to depend on an external authority? Do I need expert advice, or is this well within my domain to figure out and choose?"

Stay present in the fitness moment

"I can teach an entire aerobics class and somehow have no awareness of being in my body. My mind is wandering the whole time, and at the end of the workout, I actually feel vacant, as if I haven't been there. Then I take a couple of classes taught by somebody else and get on the Stairmaster for an hour. It takes all day sometimes before I feel like I've exercised and really worked up a sweat," says 28-year Laurie.

Some people may find Laurie's checked-out feeling appealing. Since workouts are usually a drag, what's wrong with mentally deserting for the hour?" Plenty. The way to enjoy something is not by shutting down until it's over. Reinforced escapism leads to utter avoidance. Performing workouts that they detest is the chief reason that people drop out of their fitness commitments ...

... When you're in a state of disembodied exercise, you have triggered the stress response. Your body is in a heightened state of preparedness, expecting you to demand a sudden, explosive, powerful call to action. In an ideal world, you would be able to make a mad dash and make good use of your increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, enhanced blood flow, and dilated pupils. You would explode into action and then take a much-needed rest, allowing all systems to return to normal. Instead, you may be prolonging the damaging stress response by robotically working out on a stair climber as you distract yourself with a personal stereo, TV or book.

You end up inflicting unnecessary physical wear and tear. You ignore unnatural jolts, wearing out your joints and pounding the heck out of cartilage. I know many marathoners who could only train in a disembodied state, and today they are facing total hip and knee replacements because they trained their minds to check out, disengage, and ignore discomfort and repetitive shock.

This concept of embodiment doesn't apply just to times of exertion, of course. After several hours of being entranced in front of a computer, you'll find that your body is achy, tense, and unhappy; you've become disembodied. The goal is to have a sense of your body's disposition throughout your waking hours. To do that, you need to check in with yourself at least once an hour. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • How's my posture?

  • How long have I been in one position?

  • Do I have any sore spots that I've ignored for the past hour?

  • How's my breathing — smooth and full or shallow and jerky?

    Simply asking those questions initiates the re-embodiment process ...

    Do a body scan regularly

    ... Has this ever happened to you? You finish a long, hard day at work and say to yourself, "I should go to the gym." Or may be, on the morning after a late night, you wake up tired but think, "I should go for a run." Thinking of exercise as a "should" leaves you with only two choices. If you don't exercise, you not only blame yourself for making the wrong choice, you also reinforce a negative pattern of "should, but didn't," and start to label yourself an exercise failure. If you do exercise as a "should," you end up hating every minute of it.

    The body scan is quick and easy way to take the dreaded "shoulds" out of exercise. It detours the usual ways that you think about exercise and tunes in to what you really need. It works on the principle that there are basically four different physical states of being: fatigued, tense, languid, and dynamic. Figuring out which of these four states you're presently in is your ticket to your fitness instinct.

    * * *

    TO do the body scan, check your physical status. Close your eyes, take a breath, exhale slowly, and scan your body from head to toe. What best describes your energetic state?

    As you scan, you'll get in touch with the truth of your present condition. You'll realize that there are no "shoulds" in there; there is only "what is so." The "shoulds" of conventional exercise thinking are uncreative, ineffective, habitual responses, inadequate for determining what is really called for. The body scan will let you accurately sense your physical need and choose a suitable antidote. Movement is good medicine, but only when the choice of movement fits the physiological need.

    To simplify matters, I've interpreted the four physical states as too tired, too wired, too uninspired, and too mired. Here's how to tell which state you're in and which fitness activities best address your body's needs.

    Too tired. If your entire body is achy, tired, and limp, you need to replenish your energies. You require gentle movements that act as turbines, recharging your batteries. Too wired. If you have sufficient physical energy but you're feeling tense and wired, then you need to de-stress and unwind, not engage in more heated-up exercise that will create more tension. Your muscles need to completely relax and release toxins and by-products of metabolism before they engage in efficient, satisfying exercise.

    Too uninspired. If you have sufficient physical energy but are feeling dull and languid, you need a movement pattern with some creative fire to spark your life force. Your energy is available, but it is stagnant, like a body of water without a current. "Creative Sparks," will electrify and zap a wave of energising movement throughout your entire being — mind, body, and spirit.

    Too mired. If you've been entrenched in a routine that is driving you batty, you are ready for "Moveable Treats". These are the times when being stuck in a rut hasn't really drained your life force. You are itching with energy to break out. Moveable treats are activities that use that pent-up energy while giving you a delightful break from routine.<1line_reverse>

    * * *

    Fitness awaits

    AS you transfer authority and become present during movement, proficient with the body scan, and comfortable with your derailing activities, your fitness instinct will grow. Remember to keep working on the skills you've already learned ...

    ... Here's how to know when you're tapping into your fitness instinct.

    You'll start acting younger. Reawakening your fitness instinct triggers a playful mental attitude. You'll be willing to have fun with new ideas, stand apart from the orthodox, and explore and acquire new skills. Dr. David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, and Jamie James, authors of Secrets of the Superyoung, believe that people who are younger than their biological ages don't censor themselves or expect others to do so. Highly adaptable, these age-resistant characters tend to be eccentric, giving themselves permission to engage in behaviour that others might view as odd. The superyoung, according to Dr. Weeks, exercise regularly and enjoy a robust sex life.

    You'll nourish your instinct to move. You'll start taking time to do the things that you know nourish and sustain your seventh sense, the instinct to move. The impulses to move are triggered by the deepest reverberations or vibrations in your body, as explained by the prana of Indian traditions and qi in the East. You can learn to sense this instinct and fan the glowing embers into a roaring blaze.

    You'll connect with kindred movers. There is a philosophy in western Kenya that getting well and staying well is a tribal responsibility. Harambee is the Kiswahili word for unity that implies that no one is sick alone; everyone helps until the person gets well. While in Kenya, American medical student Shetal Shah discovered how harambee merges medicine with caring and culture and inspires families to learn how to give injections and take food to the hospital patient twice a day. A practice that first struck him as inefficient and perhaps unhygienic quickly taught him to relax in the face of communal wellness. Once you're fully in touch with holistic fitness, you move beyond an integration of mind, body, and spirit on a personal level and connect with the greater community, bio-region, and planet. You're only as well as your community.

    The Fitness Instinct, the Revolutionary New Approach to Healthy Exercise that is Fun, Natural, and No Sweat,

    Peg Jordan, Eastwest Books (Madras) Pvt. Ltd., 2002, p.235, Rs. 250.

    Peg Jordan is a medical anthropologist, an international health journalist and editor and founder of American Fitness Magazine and the Global Medicine Hunter. A columnist for The Hindu, her syndicated columns, television and special media reports cover fitness, health, nutrition, integrative medicine, natural healing traditions and cultural trends. She is also the director of Integrative Practice at the Health Medicine Institute in northern California, U.S., and president of Health and Lifestyle Inc., a health communications and research firm. Visit her at www.megjordan.com

    * * *

    When you're too tired: Energy Generators

    The old thinking in fitness said that if you're tired, you need to generate energy with some exercise. I don't believe that anymore. I've talked with too many people who've pushed themselves too hard, thinking that they could shed their fatigue with some high-adrenaline aerobics.

    Energy generators are your answer to exhaustion. Excellent for getting you in touch with your energy source (known as qi or chi, prana, or life force), generators do not draw from your energy reserves. Instead, they add to them. Here are some examples.

  • Swinging a bat or golf club

  • Jumping on a minitrampoline

  • Rocking or swaying

  • Playing with a hula hoop

  • Practicing the Asian movement art of Tai Chi

  • Jumping rope

  • Doing yoga poses

    * * *

    When you're too wired: De-stressing soothers

    These delightful excursions are designed to eliminate the harmful effects of chronic stress. Each of them will release tension, help you unwind, stretch your muscles, and open your joints. They also help you increase circulation, which is vital for removing toxins and by-products of fatigue or anxiousness. The following movements and soothers will play a crucial role in elongating your muscles, oxygenating the tissues, and helping the various systems of elimination perform at their optimum level.

  • Stretching

  • Rolling on a body ball

  • Using herbs and tonics

  • Walking meditation

  • Using visualization

  • Doing relaxing yoga

  • Practicing the Japanese martial art of aikido

  • Moving to music

  • Getting a massage

    * * *

    When you're too uninspired: Creative sparks

    Wild, fun, and electric, creative sparks are designed to sweep the cobwebs from your mind, body, and spirit. These rhythmic marvels are tried-and-true doldrum chasers for enhancing creativity, innovation, and spirited breakthroughs. I've found that they are excellent before brainstorming sessions. Creative sparks are also the movement elixir, helping you restore lightness and energy after an arduous mental task.

  • Belly, jazz, salsa, or swing dancing

  • Hitting golf balls at a driving range

  • Gardening

  • Attending dog-training classes

  • Doing spontaneous movements

  • Practicing the wave

  • Crawling

  • Playing improvisational movement games

  • Doing the Head-to-Toe

    Kickstart program

  • Building sand castles

  • Participating in world-beat dance classes

    Printer friendly page  
    Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

    Magazine

  • Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education | Book Review | Business | SciTech | Entertainment | Young World | Quest | Folio |



    The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
    Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | Home |

    Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright 2002, The Hindu
    Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu