The Holy Exercise GrailAug 28, 2020
Like all organisms, humans require rhythm to function well, and moving our body is the non-negotiable foundation for a strong immune system. Our first parental decision during lockdown was to establish routines — staying in could easily evolve into a world of Sundays, and it was up to us to not let that happen.
To the rescue for our morning exercise: Joe Wicks, the body coach. A fitness coach and author, he showed up every morning live at 9 am on his YouTube channel for a 30 minutes PE session. He singlehandedly motivated millions of kids and parents around the globe to stay healthy, raised close to a million pounds for the NHS, and in my book he is an absolute superstar.
So we Wallers were all in, and the 4 of us bunny hopped and star jumped like the master, who very sweetly huffed and puffed along with us when he clearly was able to do this like, 300 times over. From his living room to ours, we all became incredibly fit, energised and ready to seize the day, working and studying from home.
Except… 2 weeks in I was in a lot of pain. Every single joint radiated a dull ache and I had to bow out after a further week. I may appear very fit and sporty, but my body is undeniably ageing; my hormonal and health risks are different, my movement needs to be changed, and my recovery time is annoyingly longer than it used to be.
After a short panic, I remembered my personal definition of fitness: To me, it means to be able to perform your daily life and still have a reserve. I don’t compare myself to a professional athlete— when do I ever have to try and outrun Usain Bolt?
The better our cardio fitness though, the lower our risk for a whole host of diseases, from the heart via diabetes to cancer. This means if walking up a flight of stairs, or dancing to one 3 minute song leaves you breathless, you don’t need me to tell you that your fitness, and thus your immune system, is compromised.
I am a yogi at heart, it is my holy grail of health and wellbeing, and I returned to that. So this is a good moment to talk about yoga, the most extraordinary physical and spiritual science mankind ever discovered. On a physical level it covers everything from cardio to muscle strength, and practiced daily it is a complete system for a healthy body and mind
Even as little as a 5-minute daily practice will keep you supple, move every muscle in your body, leave you able to reach your toes and activate and maintain your respiratory, digestive and overall immune system into a high age. You can always spot a yogi — we are physically more at ease than the non-yogis.
It is of course not about ‘us’ and ‘them’ — I wished everyone would do those 5 minutes per day. I myself am not entirely sure why yoga is not as popular as football. For the beautiful game, you see, needs no equipment, no hoops, no rackets, nets or outfits. You don’t even need a ball. Everyone can kick along crunched-up pieces of paper, empty drinks cans and pebbles, and as long as you have two legs and the willingness to experience joy, you’re in.
For times where joyous team sports are not called for, there is yoga, for which you also need nothing outside yourself. Strictly speaking, you don’t even need two legs, because yoga truly is for everyone regardless of age, shape or physical ability. There are quiet forms, practiced by candlelight, and energetic yogas, that give gymnasts a run for their money. But all variations evolve around the breath, move all muscle groups scientifically and leave you at ease, steady and strong.
David Frawley describes yoga in his book Yoga and Ayurveda as ‘a gem of great proportions, containing many facets whose light can illumine the whole of our lives with great meaning.’
As we experience the joy and quiet that comes with the physical aspects of our practice, the mind automatically follows. Postures are the first stepping stone to physical and mental wellbeing, but the ultimate goal of yoga is self-realisation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the highest form of self-healing.
Aren’t we always so damn fast to try and fix things, before we even know the actual cause? When we practice, we observe. We connect to pain as well as freedom of movement, and within a short time, an amazing alignment happens.
I realise that this is a very inadequate summary for a vast science that combines a wealth of resources that transform ourselves and our planet and provide us with the extraordinarily accessible key to higher evolution in humanity.
What I am trying to say is, find yourself a bit of yoga. Online, with a teacher, from a book, it doesn’t matter how you start. Don’t ignore the natural internal and external rhythms that are so central to your wellbeing.
Trust yourself to find your own holy exercise grail, and add a walk, or rock-climbing, or ballroom dancing, or whatever rocks your boat into the equation. You’ll thank yourself when you are still able to reach the floor and pick up the keys you dropped once you’re old and grey and still super supple.