I still dream of growing up and becoming a professional ballerina. I stare at them in awe at the New York City Ballet, when I see photographs or during the chance encounter on the street or subway. I’m enthralled by the fairy tale aspect and also the dedication, and borderline masochism, associated with these lithe bodies and tight buns (yes I meant hair and derrière)!
Although my tutu years have come and gone, I did continue to dance through high school. I still love to get up and bust a move the benefits of this background go much father. Dancers, as well as athletes, have a deep understanding of their body: its spatial relationships and its set points. This knowledge allows me to know my limits, to monitor my levels of pain and discomfort and to ensure I am constantly challenging myself. Having a sense of self in the physical state ensures that you acknowledge each aspect of your body while you use it. When learning something new I can envision and feel the exact piece of muscle. I can tell if I am actually challenging my muscles or if instead I’m straining the ones nearby. This ensures that I take full advantage of each workout. As a daily exerciser I automatically acknowledge how I’m feeling and if something is “wrong.” Maybe my calf is more sore than usual, my hip feels tight or my posture is off.
Acknowledging your body is the first step to taking care of yourself. A great way to get to know your body is through practice. Get moving or stretching and do it with purpose. Notice how far you can stretch, which muscles are sore when you run, is your body comfortable or do you need some sleep, water, rest etc?
Another great way is to stop and still yourself. We often don’t notice our discomfort until we break our routine. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class or meditated you know this. Get in touch with yourself and address it after you’ve allowed the world around you to slow down.