I had a client on my [massage] table the other day who was complaining of chronic stress tension and migraines. This is a common complaint among bodywork clients, and there was nothing special in this client's claims.
As I was working with her, and starting to read the stories her body was telling (as I do with all my clients), I felt nothing unusual. Her musculature was chronically dense and tense, she was hyper-engaging almost everywhere, and her connective tissue had become bound and solidified limiting the effectiveness of any attempts at stretching for relief.
This client was open to learning about her body and how to work with it, and was open to sharing about herself during the session. She revealed that she had always been a high achiever. She worked in a predominantly male industry, and, therefore, suppressed her more feminine qualities in favor of a more aggressive, masculine approach to her work. She shared that this masculine way of doing things—suppressing emotions, aggressively pursuing goals, maintaining tightly regimented schedules—translated into her home life where she held the titles of wife and mother, as well.
Nothing about her story was unusual. I have seen thousands of clients in my nearly two decades of practice, and many of the stories I hear bear a strong resemblance to this one.
What was unique about this particular session was the conversation that took place during it. It was one of those beautiful moments when the client is perfectly poised and ready for change, and I was open and receptive to channeling in the perfect message for her. That part, though, is not the unusual bit. That's actually how many of my bodywork sessions go. It was the message that was particularly—and universally—of interest.
I asked her about things she does that are just for her, that are solely about feeling joy in the doing of them. Her initial response was fairly common. She talked of journaling and practicing yoga. But the way she talked of these things was as if they were things that were 'good for her'. There was neither excitement nor passion in her voice when she talked about them. When I asked her about that, she paused for a moment, and admitted that she did them more for the way she felt afterward, not because she especially loved doing them. This lead to a longer conversation that eventually revealed the thing that she truly loved doing; what she loved doing so much that she would get lost in the doing of it. This is the conversation that lead to her coming to a better understanding of how her life choices can have a profound effect on her physical body.
And this is the magickal message that I want to share with you now.
We live in a world that prioritizes material success, social power and regimented goal-oriented progress. As a culture, we feel we must always be doing something that will have some concrete effects as measured by these social priorities. We hustle to get ahead professionally, we sacrifice ourselves to meet our familial obligations, we spend hours at the gym, at the office, at the PTA, at the social function of the week, and we do it with a smile.
But what are we doing for ourselves? What are we doing just because it's FUN? What are we doing that is just because it feels good to do it? Children can spend hours splashing in puddles just because it delights them to do so. But as we grow older we are taught that we don't have time for such frivolous things. We need to be serious and productive. So, we push aside those things that bring us joy in order to do those things which bring us results.
Then, as adults, we find ourselves wistfully thinking about things we'd love to be doing if only we had the time. And we are suffering for it.
It's probably not so difficult to recognize the negative effects this kind of living can have on our spirits. What might be less evident is the detrimental effects it can have on our bodies.
When we spend our time doing only things that we feel obligated to do, our muscular tissues contract. It's as if we are 'steeling' ourselves to push through these activities we 'have' to do so we can call them done. And this cycle repeats on a daily basis.
Over time, this consistent contraction creates a state of hypertonic (overly tense) hyper-engaged (overly engaged) musculature that is no longer able to fully release into relaxation. As this happens, the connective tissue begins to solidify around these new muscular patterns creating an almost shrink-wrapped effect which reinforces the tension making it even harder to release. This leads to any number of uncomfortable physical situations, including decreased circulation, decreased range of motion, stiffness, numbness, headaches, susceptibility to injury and more.
What does this have to do with having fun, you ask? I'll tell you.
When we are doing things we love to do, we relax into the doing. When we are enjoying ourselves so much that we get lost in the very act of doing it, our bodies are able to soften into the experience. It doesn't mean we aren't using our muscles, or that they aren't actively engaged. It simply means they aren't unduly constricted as they are when we're doing things we don't really want to be doing.
Making it a priority to incorporate those things we simply want to do into our lives is not just frivolous, it is proper physical maintenance. It is an important part of any health and wellness plan.
The question is, are you willing to disrupt the status quo in order to take better care of yourself? Are you willing to make even this small change to feel better in your body? The choice is yours, of course. I just want to help you understand that taking good care of your physical health doesn't have to be unpleasant or expensive. It can (and should) be fun and enjoyable.
We are designed to live lives of pleasure, expansion and optimum health. We just need to recognize that the current paradigm isn't serving us so well. If you're ready to take back your health and well-being, this is one small way to start the process.
If you'd like to take a bigger leap, reach out. I'm here to help.