Look around and you’ll begin to notice that a lot is changing in our world, and a lot is changing FAST. As a collective we are, and have been, quickly growing out of old paradigms and ushering in new ways of living that probably would have our great grandparents rolling in their graves.
What’s happening is that as a race, we are growing up and awakening at quite an accelerated rate. And as this happens, what once has worked for us in the past, we suddenly see, no longer does.
You may even notice that more and more people are waking up to the fact that our grandfather’s paradigm of clocking in and out, and waiting ‘till 65 to retire to enjoy life, just isn’t working any more. We are shifting from outdated models of living, into a what is considered, a New Earth. And our paradigms in fitness, are thusly effected.
Having one foot in the spiritual community, and the other in fitness, it often times feels like living at two ends of the spectrum. Being stretched far and thin, and not being able to anchor myself in either of these worlds. While this has been an incredible source of frustration for me in the past, I’m beginning to see just where the gift in this dance lies – and that is the bridge that the fitness world has on the current awakening of the planet.
Having been in fitness for over 10 years, I’m inviting you to open your mind, hop off the elpitical and follow me down the rabbit hole for the next 10 minutes or so. What I am offering here is a new perspective on the future of fitness and it’s role in our awakening.
And first, I want to lead into this discussion with a quote, one I recently stumbled upon that has been lingering on my mind for weeks, and one I felt was pertinent to the topic of the future of fitness and a fitting opening to our discussion today.
“The body remembers what the mind forgets.”
I heard this quote in a podcast re: male circumcision and in the interview, which you can find here, the quote was used to help re-inforce the belief that stress and trauma not only live in our subconscious memory, but also live within the body – within our actual tissues, our muscles, organs, and viscera.
Meaning, not only can we store the memory of trauma in our brains, our physical body can also hold on to the memories of traumatic events.
Along with this concept, I will also add that the body has a propensity to move, contort, and mold itself into different postures as a result of acute and chronic stressors. How we stand and move in the world can say a lot about what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling.
This idea that our physical body can store past trauma and express stress in a corporeal way is not a new concept. The ideas I will discuss here are built upon the works of psychoanalysts Wilhem Reich and Alexander Lowen, to the scientific breakthroughs in the field of psychoneuroimmunology (say that one 3 times fast) of Bruce Lipton and Candace Pert, and the pioneering movement and therapeutic body work of Ida Rolf, Moshe Feldenkrais, and Tomas Hanna, to name a few.
So, what the hell does past trauma and stored stress have to do with the future of fitness and the awakening of the planet?
Like, a lot, a lot.
A lot more than the current paradigm of mainstream commercialized fitness is talking about. The concept that our body can hold onto stress and express itself in our posture and movement is a lost and forgotten piece of the fitness puzzle that needs to be brought more into view in order for us who make a career in fitness, to move the industry forward, and for those who engage in fitness, to fully embody ourselves in this lifetime – a necessary component to our awakening.
From my experience both working with clients over the last decade and in observing my own physical, emotional, and spiritual transformations, I’ve grown to trust that our physical body has the potential to reflect our thoughts, feelings, traumas, patterns, inherited beliefs, learned beliefs and manifest them in physical form.
In other words, I strongly believe that our thoughts and our feelings can shape our body.
Want an example? Check this out:
Think back to the last time you were at a haunted house. It was dark, cramped, and you had zero idea of what the hell was going to jump out at you. If you were anything like me, you were probably huddled next to your friends, partially covering your face, gripping onto their fleece jacket with dear life, as you shuffled your way around pitch dark corners, yelping and hollering the whole time.
Can you feel what your body was doing in this moment? Can you sense your shoulders rising towards your ears, your upper back round, your knees bend as you tuck your pelvis?
If you’re nodding your head ‘yes’, this is the sorta response I want to build upon. If you said, no, well then, you’re just a brave bad-ass that would put John Snow to shame and you just may have a career in designing haunted houses yourself.
The reaction that happens in the haunted house is often referred to in the world of somatic movement as the “Red Light Reflex”.
It’s an automatic response of the body elicited by your autonomic nervous system to protect itself – the chest collapses, shoulders round, and the pelvis tucks. All with the intention of protecting our precious internal organs. This is a similiar response that you may have experienced in school when leaning too far back in a chair, and then just at the point when you realize you’re gonna fall backwards, you ricochet your body forward again, bringing your chair back to the ground.
Now there isn’t anything wrong with this, the Red Light Reflex – it’s a totally normal and a legit functioning response of the body, just like poopin’ and pee’ing. It’s just a part of being human.
(Side note: There is also another automatic response called the Green Light Reflex which we we’ll get into in a future post…)
Anywho, why is this important, and WTF does this have anything to do with fitness and our awakening?
Stay with me, we’re getting there…
Now imagine there is a situation in your current life that gives you the same Red Light Reflex.
Can you think of one? Perhaps it’s the sensation of being yelled at by your boss, or your parents, or the feeling of or experience of failure or disappointment. Or daily stress and worry of paying bills.
Now imagine that this situation continues to linger in your life, day in and day out. Say, 5 days a week, from about, eh, 9-5.
Imagine what 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week of this Red Light Reflex would do to your body. To your brain. To your emotions. To your mental well-being.
Over the course of a week, a month…a decade. This becomes so routine that you don’t even notice or are consciously aware how it’s effecting your body or your life – while your conscious mind may have forgotten just how stressful our lives can be (this is protective response to keep you in survival mode), your body certainly remembers.
“The body remembers what the mind forgets.”
To paint a clearer picture of what actually happens in the body during a Red Light Reflex, here are some of the physical effects:
- Shallow breathing and reduced oxygen consumption – your breath becomes shallow due to a sunken chest
- Increase in blood pressure – the pressure in your thoracic cavity increases as the weight of your body is pressed forward
- Increase in heart rate
- Decrease in HRV (heart rate variability)
- Increase in sympathetic nervous response and elevated adrenal hormones
- Decrease in digestive powered due to a decrease in Parasympathetic response
- Decrease in libido
- Reduced recovery time
- Weak and elongated lower back and gluteal muscles
- Tight and shortened chest and upper trapezius muscles
- Weak lower abdominal muscles
Perhaps you can begin to see what sorts of long-term effects a persistent Red Light Reflex would have on the body.
Even though we may only spend 15 minutes once a year in the haunted house, we can spend decades worrying about bills, jobs, relationships, and internalized feelings which create a toned down and chronic Red Light Reflex. Rather than having a few minutes of sheer terror, and then leaving the dark allowing your body to come back to homeostasis, we stay in a never ending haunted house that we call life, often times spread out over the course of several decades, or even a life-time.
Maybe you’re starting to see what I’m getting at here…
Perhaps now you can imagine how tight and stressed out this can make your body over time. And not to mention, the potential for blood sugar imbalances, sleep issues, and even weight gain that can happen further down the line due to an increase in sympathetic nervous system response and a decrease in parasympathetic response.
Referring back to the opening quote, “The body remembers what the mind forgets”, we soon forget (or lose awareness) of these effects, but our body continues to feel and express the symptoms.
If we were to just bring our awareness of our body back into our conscious mind, we would realize just how crappy we actually feel and we would begin the process of healing by eventually moving out of lifestyle choices that are negatively impacting our health, thus bringing us more in alignment with ourselves, and moving us forward along our path of awakening.
Instead, we typically mitigate these effects by attempting to cover up or muscle our way through these symptoms whether it be with prescription medication that may not necessarily be needed or grueling exercise that generally force ourselves into cookie cutter workouts designed for the masses, not the individual.
In a body that is already under the constant cultural pressures to do more, be more, have more, never give up or quit, hustle till you drop, burn the candle on both ends mentality, it’s no wonder how we’ve ended up with a fitness system that reflects the very same values we carry to the gym as we carry to the office.
More and more people are choosing to leave the traditional corporate setting, more are delaying marriage and starting a family, and choosing to live more unconventional lifestyles. More people are becoming entrepreneurs, starting their own businesses, and generally giving the middle finger to “the man”.
As someone who has a knack for picking out patterns in both individuals and in the collective, I’m beginning to see the parrallels our evolutionary and cultural awakening is having and will continue to have on the future of the fitness industry. And how the shifting paradigms in fitness, will reciprocally have on our awakening.
As we continue to step into the awakening of our planet, the effects of that will begin to trickle down to the everyday mundaneness of our lives, our workout habits included. And for me, and for the purpose of this blog, I am seeing how this is changing how we view, approach and treat our body in regards to fitness.
As we begin to step away from a very logical, linear model of life – go to school, get a job, have kids, a dog, retire, and die – we are beginning to step into a more wholistic model, one which invites and welcomes all expressions of life to be accepted. One in which we seek out experiences rather than material possessions or cultural status.
Wanna marry someone of the same sex? Why not!
Don’t wanna go to college? Sure!
Wanna make your living posting YouTube videos teaching women how to do their hair? Of course!
As this is happening in our lives, we will also witness a subsequent shift in fitness from the very linear and dogmatic – push more harder faster stronger sweat fitspo don’t rest mentality into, yes, a more wholistic view, where all is welcome, and a shift towards the experience and feeling sense of movement will begin to trump the quest for a solid 6-pack.
Are you a dude and wanna learn to pole dance? Go for it!
Wanna lift super heavy weights and then stand up paddle board? Sounds like fun!
Interested in dancing your socks off at 7 in the morning at sober, morning raves? Rock on!
As we begin to usher in a new paradigm of living on this planet, it’s becoming a priority, and I would go so far as to say, a necessity, for us to learn how to inhabit our physical body, and to listen to and become aware of ourselves in the physical form. This means, shifting our focus on the end result of fitness like weight loss, to focusing on the journey, or the experience of fitness/movement.
Just as we are noticing a shift in our lifestyles to collecting experiences rather than collecting objects, we will also notice a shift into experiencing movement rather than attaining arbitrary fitness measures. Meaning, more people will want to experience new ways of moving their body rather than trying to PR on their deadlift.
One of the first ways we can begin to use fitness to facilitate our awakening is to become aware of our posture and our movements in our daily life. Touching back to the Red Light Reflex, begin to notice how and when you may feel this in your body. Begin to notice your body, begin to notice where you hold your tension, begin to feel your body again.
Begin to see where in your life you can reduce your Red Light Reflexes. The more we become aware of the feelings and sensations in our body, the more we awaken consciously and spiritually.
I strongly believe that the basis of our spiritual awakening begins with coming back INTO the body, and that starts with actually feeling what we’re feeling.
What I’m saying here, and inviting you to consider for yourself is to begin looking at your workouts as way to experience and to feel your body, rather than using them with the intetion to trim, slim, tuck and punish yourself into a smaller frame. I am not saying that wanting to slim or trim your body is wrong, far from it. In this new paradigm as I said, all is welcome. What I am saying is that consider exploring your workouts as a way to expereince and feel your body. Remember what it’s like to be IN your body.
Another useful semantic shift is to begin looking at your workouts as a movement practice – this subtle shift in wording allows for more freedom of expression. When we use the word “workout” we may automatically associate it with a sweaty class, joining a gym, or workouts that leave us feeling depelted.
And if we don’t fit ourselves into one of those options, we may feel like we are doing it “wrong”. However, when we begin to think of fitness as a movement practice, we open ourselves to greater options – now a hike, dancing, or light stretching becomes a ‘workout’, and essentially, no form of workout is ever “wrong”.
Try this: Next time you’re at spin class, see what happens when you focus on feeling what is going on in your body and in your breath, rather than just zoning out to make it through the workout. How present can you stay in your body during the hour? And at the end, ask yourself if this style of movement is something you truly enjoy?
These practices that I’m inviting you to consider, I feel, will be as important as any of your current spiritual or personal development practices. Going to your yoga or strength class and feeling your body will be as much a practice as your meditations and tarot card readings.
Want to connect with the Divine? Begin by connecting with your body and feeling your body, especially during your workouts.
The more you are aware of your body and it’s sensations, and how you hold yourself, the greater your level of awakening.
Although it’s taken some time for the mainstream fitness realm to feel the trickling effects of the awakening consciousness on our planet, the signs are clear that a paradigm shift in the fitness industry is occuring.
We are seeing more movement practices based on the quality of movement and sensations; we are seeing movement practices that are partnering itself with nature; we are seeing movement practices that are free-flowing and tap into our sensuality; we are beginning to take the steps out of the typical linearity, one dimensional fitness paradigms and take on a wholistic, more aware model.
As the planet continues on its path of awakening, we will continue to see the world of fitness transform, and as the world of fitness transforms, we will continue to see the planet awaken.