I’ve been a bona fide senior citizen for quite some time without noticing it very much. But about a year ago the intense Pilates workouts and long yoga classes that I used to love began to feel depleting. Instead of being energized afterward I had to go home and lie down.
This change took some getting used to--I didn’t like being different in my body than I was before. Eventually I started doing gentler yoga and taking more walks.
Walking is touted by many experts to be the best exercise for everyone. While true in terms of many aspects of health, walking offers few opportunities for the innovative movements that keep fascia healthy. Fascia's template isn't restricted to single planes of motion, so our overt movements shouldn't be either. (More about fascia here.)
Contemporary humans don't experience much movement variety. Consider the kinds of movements your Paleolithic forebears had to do in order to survive. Our bodies have essentially the same design for movement, but we don't climb over rough terrain or carry heavy loads. We rarely extend our arms and spines to throw something over-handed. And most of us are too stiff to fully squat.
Modern life offers little demand for unexpected and unusual actions. Instead, bereft of movement, our fascia slowly solidifies into the default position of contemporary life styles—chair-sitting. It is said that there are 360 joints in the body. If we were designed to be sedentary, we wouldn’t need all those joints. Our bodies are thirsty for movement in underused ranges of action.
An Unpredictable Medium
Last week I found myself in a pool with 57 other mostly senior citizens wearing sun hats and paddling around to music. It wasn’t like swimming, where you repeat specific propulsive actions. Instead this was like walking or running in a crazy dream—the movements are familiar but the medium is foreign. Water isn’t predictable the way gravity is. I was working hard and getting nowhere.
I did jumping jacks. I pushed a swim noodle down into the water with my feet and “stood” on it while twisting my upper body side to side. Balancing was hard—the water was uncooperative. This was a core workout, an aerobic workout and a perceptual workout--I had to stay present in the “water-space” lest I kick someone or be kicked. I had to occupy my whole body.
And I had to let go of my sheepishness at enjoying an activity I might previously have rolled my eyes about. After an hour rocking and rolling to a mix of global fusion and golden oldies, it was impossible to take myself seriously. I emerged from the pool feeling energized, whole, aging and human.
© 2016 Mary Bond