All people are born with a natural delight in movement. Music is in everybody’s blood. Whether the present moment finds you slender, strong, in the prime of life, athletic and a gifted dancer, or a pear-shaped clumsy bear, or a stiff framework of skin and bone – living or rediscovering this inborn joy is a solid foundation for staying healthy through your own efforts. The reason for this is in thousands of books; but a single sentence would suffice to explain it: What does not move falls into decay.
There are numerous influences from childhood onwards that mar the happiness of this activity, so essential for life, and literally close down parts of our body – from signs that say “No ball games” and constant admonitions to “Sit quietly!”, to the school desk, to the office chair and the compulsion to achieve. To be sure the greatest obstacles later in life are thoughts such as: “I can’t do it; I won’t make it; I’m no athlete; what if someone sees me like this!” – all of which start out from the conviction that movement, dance or sporting performance must always satisfy certain standards or external forms and alien requirements. Why is that there are so many books on physical training, all of them utterly useless and uninspiring?
This is because the real meaning of movement does not consist in doing something ‘correctly’. So many teachers and therapists in this field convey the message, consciously or more often unconsciously, that with movement some sort of measurable goal has to be reached. “Bring your head between your knees; lift your arm above your head; keep your legs straight; no that’s not right; oh well, you’ll get it right in time…” – that, more or less, is the way the nonsense goes, making us forget what healthy movement and above all physical exercises for the sick are really about.
The sole aim of movement should be joy and flowing energy. If your arms can only move so far and no further – well and good! If you can only run so far, bend over so far, jump so far, dance for so long – that’s excellent! You should never take another person, let alone a sport or PE instructor or a book, as a model for what you wish to, or even have to attain. And if anyone smiles at your ‘style’ then that means only one thing: pride goes before a fall.
Once again the only criterion for the success of your intention is your personal instinct. When you sense how even with the slightest movements a force is gradually beginning to flow, just feel this force. Straighten and stretch yourself for a minute (maybe right now!), just as you might in the morning after getting out of bed, and feel what is happening. Feel how the force is flowing and what pleasure that brings and how the pleasure and energy from the smallest movement and stretching spreads out over the whole body. And then only remember the joy and force – not how far, how high, how fast. Whether this joy then spurs you on to some kind of sport – to gymnastics, dancing, chopping wood, or aikido – is completely unimportant. It is not the method that makes the force flow, but your instinct and self-confidence. You should always bear this in mind.
What counts in sport and movement is never the external form. You should never overstep your limits and above all never overstep the ‘pain threshold’. Each morning stretch what can be stretched, but stop short of ‘breaking point’ , whatever that may be. And never compare yourself with anyone in the world. You are unique from the word go.
Every day doctors express thousands of admonitions that we should move more, do more sport – physical training, swimming, table tennis, hiking, running. We don’t want to repeat them, because admonitions and proofs are worthless. The only thing that helps is understanding. One old and valid rule of health runs as follows:
Once a day work up a sweat.
Once a day feel really hungry.
Once a day get really tired.
Unnecessary maybe, but certainly of interest to the ‘proof-hungry’ or simply as an anecdote: the above rule recently received confirmation in a comprehensive study of more than 5000 people in the USA, who had reached their hundredth birthday in good health. The researchers had originally made it their aim to track down the secret of these people’s longevity. What common factors could be observed? Did it depend on diet, lifestyle, attitude to life, abstinence, mega-garlic-ginseng, mysterious herbal elixirs? The result astonished the scientists: apart from one thing there was no common factor! Some of them smoked like chimneys, some drank half a litre of red wine every day; some were vegetarians, others got up at one in the morning to polish off a mighty chunk of bacon; some had fifteen children and seventy grandchildren, others lived like monks – and so it went on. In other words there was absolutely nothing that pointed to a universally valid recipe for health and long life. There was just this one exception: all of those questioned stated that they worked up a good sweat every day – by running, chopping wood, dancing, lovemaking, or whatever.
Movement makes energy start to flow. Flowing energy loosens blockages in the body, head and heart. Loosened blockages release joy and strength. Released joy helps us to stay healthy or get healthy – throughout body, mind and soul. Stiffening is the basis of death, movement the basis of life.