I am a recovering crossfit-style workout junkie. For years I was doing burpees, pushups, planks, mountain climbers, dive bombers, you name it. I did these workouts 3-5 times a week, tracking my progress, and rarely missing a workout. I enjoyed the exercise high, as well as feeling strong. I was proud of myself for building the strength and dedication to have a strong exercise practice. What I didn't like so much was my aching back and joints. Over time, I developed chronic back and joint pain because of the exercises.
I have always found it interesting that we seem to either under or overdo most things in life. There are the people who are sedentary, who exercise very little, and then we have the people who exercise too much, or do exercises that hurt their body. In knowing this, we should strive for balance, exercising enough, but not overdoing it.
I eventually had to make the difficult decision to quit vigorous exercise altogether and only do qigong. My body was sending me a message and I was finally ready to listen. I think we all need to listen to our bodies and find balance, rather than the extremes.
Since quitting and working on healing my body, I have slowly been coming back into exercise, finding more gentle moves. I have also come to appreciate that qigong and tai chi can be just as strengthening, if not more. It's easy to fixate on doing big, heavy, vigorous movements, but small, subtle, and gentle can actually be even more powerful. Through more gentle exercises, such as qigong, there are incredible health benefits as well. By learning to circulate energy throughout the body, energy is unblocked from areas of pain and health issues begin to resolve.
Every body is different, but for me, I had to stop all planks, burpees, pushups, heavy weights, dive bombers, and any other forceful moves that put a lot pressure on the joints.
Here is what I do these days:
- I tend to put on happy music and just dance or move my body however feels more comfortable. Occasionally, I will drop in some lunges, squats, arm exercises, and gentle ab work. The important thing is to never feel pain. If anything starts to hurt, I immediately stop.
- Always breathe through the nose and keep the mouth shut. See this blog post for more information. If you have to open your mouth to catch your breath, you're exercising too hard.
- Make sure to cool down when finished by rubbing/holding lavender and peppermint, or vetiver essential oil onto Liver 3 and Liver 8 points and doing some deep breathing.
Another great exercise option is Callanetics, which is gentle style of exercise focusing on tiny pulse-like movements that sculpt and strengthen muscles, while re-aligning the back. Callan Pinkney, the founder, created the exercises to help heal her own back and get into shape. Eventually, the exercises caught on and she became quite famous in the 80's. While the exercises look dated amid the leotards and 80's spandex, they are quite effective, gentle, and help those with back problems.