A week or so ago, I became
obsessed with interested in this body alignment blog by Katy Bowman. She explains with clarity, humor, and gentleness why alignment is important, why most of us are so bad at it, and how to change it.
As a scanner, I love immersing myself in a new interest. I’ll probably eat, sleep, and talk alignment for the next few weeks. I thought I already knew a decent amount about my body, but surprise! Turns out I’m moving, walking, sitting, and standing wrong. No big, right? *Sigh*
Whether you think alignment is important or not, at some point you’ve probably come across new information that tells you that you’re doing something wrong and need to change. How do you respond?
My less-than-enlightened go-to reactions tend to be:
- anger/defensiveness (“Who do you think you are?”)
- fear (“Oh, crap, I’ve got to fix this before it gets worse!”)
- defeatism (“I’ve been doing it wrong for so long, what’s the point in trying to change now?”).
The problem with these reactions is that I infuse neutral facts with a painful emotional charge and then react to the emotion instead of the information.
Even if I try to fix the problem quickly to make the uncomfortable emotion go away, my solution might not be the best one in the long run. When I let my painful thoughts dictate my actions, I’m doing the equivalent of repeatedly inflating a leaky air mattress instead of finding the hole and patching it.
The analogous responses to finding the leak are awareness and acceptance, and they’re the ones I’m trying to get better at. Awareness has two parts in this case: external and internal.
This involves examining the new information before taking action. As you may have heard, “Figures never lie, but liars figure.” Is the person presenting the information invested in getting me to feel a certain way? Are they selling a way to fix the problem revealed by the information? Do they have an urgent tone?
How do I feel in my body when I review the information? Do I feel tight and panicky, or relaxed and curious? In short, how are they influencing my thoughts, feelings, and actions, and am I okay with that?
If the tone passes muster, I look internally next. Why do I feel the need to make a change? What’s the motivation? What are my thoughts and feelings?
In the past, my habitual M.O. was to motivate myself through fear and self-judgment. By convincing myself terrible things would happen and/or I’m a failure if I don’t do [x], I could work up enough momentum to avert the “crisis.”
It’s a good way to get a lot of stuff done, but it comes at a high cost; equating my self-worth with external metrics means that I have to constantly improve in order to feel good about myself. If I can’t meet my own high expectations, I get depressed and anxious.
Over time, I’ve been slowly trying to shift my motivational focus to curiosity and self-kindness. Jen Louden published a post on freedom from self-improvement where she writes, “Be willing to look at your own life and want more for yourself without beating yourself up or making it about another self-improvement plan.”
Yes! That’s what I want. I want to keep getting better at asking myself questions like, “What would happen if I did things this way instead?” or “What would feel good right now?” instead of “Why do I suck so much?”
One of the things I like so much about Katy’s alignment blog is that her tone encourages this approach. She knows it’s impossible to fix a lifetime of bad habits with a few days of exercises, so she urges her readers to go slowly and focus on one thing at a time. To do otherwise is to risk burnout and/or injury. She (and her readers) are playing the long game, and I’m trying to do the same.
Giving Up (Also Known as Acceptance)
Part of this new modality is giving up (also known as acceptance, for those of you wondering when it would show up). Yeah, I said it: it’s okay to give up sometimes. Not forever, but for the moment.
When curiosity and self-kindness are in short supply and the only thing that is keeping me going is dread about the future, I know I need to change my tactics. I need to loosen my death-grip on keeping my head down, tightening my belt, powering through. When it stops feeling good, I go find something that does. In the meantime, I try to be okay with things the way they are.
I’ve been working on this here post for the past three days, and only now do I have the positive momentum to wrap it up. The way I finally got here was not by beating myself up (I tried that) but by giving up, accepting where I was, and resting until I got excited about writing again. (I also got some coaching – I highly recommend it if you’re stuck!)
My homework for the rest of the week is to a) sneak more curiosity and self-kindness into my day and b) concentrate on pointing my feet forward when I walk. What’s one (tiny) positive shift you can make today? Not because you should, but because you deserve it.
Photo credit: stock.xchg