I went camping this last weekend with my family. Our 3-day camping trip met several deep needs that had gone unmet for some time and brought up many things to muse on, especially in regards to movement and exercise and how we use our bodies all of the time. I'd like to share some of them with you.
The land we explored was in southern New Mexico, land that has been inhabited for thousands of years, first by Native Americans and later by Spanish and other European explorers and colonialists.
The picture above showing my son and I hiking is part of a trail out of a canyon where there exists an entirely different ecosystem, one that brought much needed water to people and animals and creates a lot of plant diversity. This trail, like the land around it, has been traveled for thousands of years, initially by the indigenous peoples and later by cattle ranchers with their cattle.
Hiking it kicked my pregnant ass.
The next day, we traveled to White Sands National Monument, an expanse of startling white sand dunes made of gypsum. We hiked over these dunes (and filmed a bit for an upcoming video - be on the lookout Sunday!) and went sledding down them.
This effort also kicked my ass.
In the midst of all of this was the usual effort that comes with camping, the way the body works hard, whether it's walking the short distance to the water pump, or lugging everything out of the car, or setting up the tent, or bending down to search the camping box for the matches or squatting to build a fire or to have a pee.
I only had to walk to the pump 15 yards away.
I only had to hike because I wanted to, not because my survival depended on it.
I only had to reach into my cooler to find some eggs to cook.
I only had to turn on the AC in the car to cool down when we were on the road.
I only had to stop at the store to buy wood for a fire.
I only had to insert my propane canister to get the stove going.
I only had to drive a few hours to traverse hundreds of miles for pleasure.
This doesn't account for all the effort that others put into making much of this accessible to me and still my body worked harder than it usually does. (It felt amazing, for the record.)
In the midst of this, I did few exercises, and those I did were almost entirely reactionary, like the time I nearly slipped on gravel in the campsite and felt my back slightly seize up. So I did a brief psoas release. Or the way my feet felt sore after hiking in minimal sandals on crazy intense rocks, so I did a few foot stretches. Once or twice, I bent in half to feel the backs of my legs open up after hiking with bent knees up and down really steep inclines. I also probably stood around on one foot from time to time to activate my lateral hip musculature out of habit.
But other than that? I just got about the business of moving through my day.
When I was thinking about all of the people who had walked this land before me, I tried to imagine them "exercising."
And I couldn't do it! Can you?
When you're looking at two 100 yards-long stone walls climbing up the side of a mountain that a Frenchman built to protect his cattle and vineyard, it's hard to imagine him doing push-ups or lat exercises at the end of his day.
When you're unable to complete the trail that leads into the canyon because you're fatiguing, it's hard to imagine the First People's who did this routinely heading out for a morning constitutional and then doing some isometrics.
They didn't need to exercise because their lives were filled with movement.
You, had your life been filled with movement from the very beginning, wouldn't need to exercise either.
But your life wasn't.
My life wasn't.
Which is why we exercise.
This is why I love the evolution of Katy Bowman's work (whom I have studied with for years). She explores at length how we need to think beyond exercise. We need to look to how our bodies CAN move through space. We need to reclaim the movements that our ancestors have made use of since the dawn of humanity in the name of survival.
They are the same movements that our bodies still need.
We can begin learning about them on the mat, if you will. We can begin to eek out another literal shape to our bodies via exercise to ensure that we can move safely about the world. We can start to wake up and mobilize and gain strength.
And then we can take these smaller movements that we've been practicing and bring them outside (and, sometimes, inside) to take our practice to an entirely different level.
I expect I'll always be exercising, even if my lifestyle were to change dramatically. (As it is, I spend enough time on this side of the screen to need the support of exercise to help me return to a more natural shape.)
But I have found that there are some exercises I need less of when my body is moving in a more natural environment in more natural ways, which is just one more reminder that I shouldn't really HAVE to exercise as a human, but that as a modern human, my needs have devolved a bit, making exercise something that brings great nourishment and health.
I encourage you to think beyond your mat, but not in a way that denigrates your exercise time. Rather, consider them two parts of a whole that YOUR modern body needs based on the inputs it's been receiving since the time you were in your mother's womb. As these two begin to form a whole, you'll start to see the reciprocity, the way your movements both on and off the mat change. I think you'll like what you experience.
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This balance of exploring natural movement on and off the mat is central to the retreat I'm leading in May here in New Mexico. The amazing added-benefit is that we're doing all of it in a rich, judgment-free, heart-centered way, a way that looks at the whole of your life and how you are traveling through it.
I so hope you'll consider joining me for this amazing experience.
The cost is $450 (or three payments of $150) and includes all meals. We'll look at how we move on the mat and off the mat, including heading out for some stunning hikes.
Click here to learn more about and to apply for the May retreat.
I'm looking forward to my next camping trip. Until then, you can find me hiking the hill behind my house. And, when I'm not there, hitting the mat.