Why do humans need to exercise?
It’s a shame if the first thing to pop into your mind was “to burn calories” as it sort of misses the point. Most of us in the modern, Western World eat far too much and just don’t move enough, so if we just stopped eating so much, we’d have fewer calories to burn! In a more traditional existence, we would be moving more and burning energy in an incidental way throughout the day – such as looking for and gathering food which might not always be available in large quantities. In this life though, we eat way more (not always healthy or fresh) food than we actually need. It’s also quite possible that we are absorbing less nutrients due to stressors, real and perceived. Realistically, if most of us cut down on what we ate by 1/3 as a minimum and moved pretty consistently throughout the day, we would all be a lot healthier and there would a lot less focus on exercising just for weight loss. And seriously, this is a “treadmill” that some people never get off. How many people spend their life constantly trying to lose weight, but yet year in, year out, pretty much stay the same weight and shape despite adherence to the same rituals?
So maybe instead of burning calories, perhaps we need to reconsider our intention and exercise in a more holistic and/or natural way. Yoga postures and exercises (for example), traditionally, were not about building muscles, becoming flexible or having a toned bum (great side effects however!). The practises were all about keeping the mind strong and nourishing and massaging what was on the inside. Wise Yogis knew even 5000 years ago that all dis-ease began in the belly. Everything is processed here – food and emotions. When we are very tense or are still for long periods, such as being desk or car bound – or even stuck on a long haul flight – it’s the case that even the most healthiest people can (and do) end up with issues relating to circulation blockages, such as niggly pain or even DVT. This should make us realise that the heart is actually a pretty inefficient pump for the most part! In our day-to-day life, we might sit for hours but then jump around a gym with our tense muscles or run miles and check our heart rate, even though the majority of us don’t really understand why we do that or what it actually means! Sure, the heart is a muscle and must be exercised if we want to get fitter and stay viable, but the truth is, an extremely unfit/unhealthy person would see a massive heart rate increase if they walked up a few steps. Is this a good thing? The fittest and most healthiest amongst us are those who can do more but yet end up with a steadier heart rate. In fact, it’s generally a variable heart rate that’s the most healthy. Still, the consensus remains in the fitness world that we must raise the heart rate in order to move blood and oxygen around the body, despite the fact that we also know a pumping heart rate is a stress response. Stress affects our physiology though so chances are, if we exercise to the extreme, there’s nothing positive happening on a deep, physiological level. This is because stress, real and imagined, puts our body systems into sleep mode. Yes. All of them.
One of the most efficient and stress-free ways to pump blood around the body is not with the heart, but with the musculo-skeletal pump. When we move naturally, from our core, in all kinds of ways and take our bodies into all possible ranges of movement, muscles organically switch on and off. As they switch on, blood is pushed out, as they relax, fresh blood moves in. When we have limited (or too much) movement around a joint, or too much / not enough muscle activation, that’s often where the aches and pains and injuries will end up. In the end, this is why humans need to keep their bodies moving. Our circulatory system must continually flow like a healthy river as opposed to a stagnant pond. Holistic health and nourishing movement is not about burning calories that we didn’t really need to eat in the first place.
A twist such as this can be very powerful but should always be executed with a soft core and on an abdominal INHALATION (as opposed to exhalation). Breathe in to the belly and turn from the navel spine first (not the head – anyone can move their head!). It should feel like you are trying to round out rather than arch your back and you can use your arms for some resistance (as if you are trying to push back in the opposite direction). A pose like this lubricates the spinal joints. It also tones, massages and brings a fresh supply of blood into the abdominal organs. These organs are surrounded by a system of nerves (enteric nervous system/”feeling” brain) that have everything to do with your gut health and hence your complete sense of wellbeing.🙏👌❤️🕉