Friday, August 29, 2008

Movement as Medicine

Many people over the years have advocated exercise for strengthening and maintaining health, so that in itself would not qualify as news. Everyone knows that something as simple as taking a walk every day is a tonic for the body.

However, some lesser known things have gained a much greater audience in recent years. For example, Tai Chi has grown in popularity because it does not require great physical skill or special equipment. Starting with standing postures and gentle, flowing movements, anyone can participate if they choose. In fact there have been studies done involving older people that demonstrated that Tai Chi helped older people regain flexibility and stamina. The deep breathing and meditative quality of the movement brought steadiness and calmness as well as contributing to mental clarity. These days it is not hard to find a teacher. And if you prefer to purchase an instructional DVD and work at your own pace at home, there are many of these available too.

Yoga, of course, has been booming and blooming all over the country, so much so that you can find a yoga studio in malls and shopping centers as well as both free standing studios and chains. There are also many instructional DVDs available in this modality as well.

Both Tai Chi and Yoga have many variations, so there is not just one way of doing it. If you prefer to be in a more strenuous, advanced class or a gentle beginner's class, there are all types of teachers and studios.

A lesser known system of meditative movement is that of the Rune Stances or Rune Postures. The Runes are an ancient alphabet of symbols that date back to about the 5th Century. These signs can be made with your body, and in so doing, you draw energy in through you by becoming the symbol. The runes are well known as a set of stones that you hold in your hands and then cast to do readings. So you can decide to choose certain postures for your workouts on certain days to address aspects of life that you wish to focus on.

Finally, another way of incorporating movement into your life for health is dancing. One proponent of a simple direct approach is Gabrielle Roth. She has a number of of CDs and DVDs out, as well as two books that talk about and demonstrate how free form dance to instrumental music which uses a lot of percussion and drums can be used to create a meditative state. Of course, at the same time, you get aerobic exercise, and she gives you plenty to think about as you contemplate the differences you feel when dancing to different rhythms. Since most of us think of dancing as fun, it would be easy to enjoy working up a sweat while we increase our strength, stamina and aerobic ability.

Keeping our bodies limber and supple through movement can be easy and enjoyable. All of the methods I have mentioned can be done at home without any special equipment, and only a modest investment to learn.

Don't struggle, enjoy. Movement can be great medicine, done alone or with others. Tune up your body, mind and spirit all at the same time.

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