Essentrics foundations for a happier healthy life!
As humans, we live in constant relation – with family, community, pets, and even our technology. What or who we relate with can become so much a part of our identities that the boundaries between where we start and they begin can blur. So, when it comes to our bodies, why do we often see it solely as a system of parts, separate from nature? Our bodies transform into units to measure, weigh, and set as reference points against the current cultural trends – which leads people to focus on the aesthetics of fitness at the expense of their health.
A measure that’s held sway for decades is called a BMI or Body Mass Index. The BMI is the ratio of body weight divided by the square of one’s height. The problem is that this BMI can’t differentiate between a powerlifter and a regular person of similar height and weight. The BMI ignores muscle mass, body type, ethnicity, mobility, exercise habits, eating habits, and more. It’s a one-size-fits-all formula.
The lived experiences of human bodies are wildly and beautifully unique. Our bodies are miracles – the sheer fact that they carry us throughout our day, digest our food, take in the world around us, and breathe is a constant source of wonder! When we focus on numbers, our perspectives narrow.
In the spirit of reconnection with our true selves, we propose a better BMI formula – one based on Balance, Mobility, & Interconnectedness as a measure for a vital happy life!
A Better BMI
B for Balance
We need balance to do just about every task that comes up on a regular day. How is your balance? If you try and stand on one leg, do you feel at greater risk of falling? When you get out of a chair, do you have difficulty finding stability? Your balance reflexes (the nerves that trigger muscle reactions and balance receptors) begin to shrink around age 30, but if they are continually stimulated through balance exercises and clean alignment of the feet, you can regain and maintain good balance!
Benefits of balance exercise include:
– Preventing falls
– Reduces the risk of lower-extremity injuries, such as knee and ankle injuries
– Improved proprioception (the ability to know where you are in space)
Try it: Stand on one leg and begin to “write” the alphabet with your other leg. Don’t hold on to anything for support, as wobbling will help to fire up your balance reflexes (but ensure that if you feel very wobbly at first, you can easily grab onto a wall or countertop as needed.)
M for Mobility
Mobility refers to our ability to move without stress on the body. How mobile are you? If you are able-bodied or confined, your physical limitations are not the reference point. The reference point is how you are able to move throughout your day within the capabilities of your body. Joints make movement possible and each joint plays a vital role in the mobility of our bodies. When our joints feel stiff, we can have trouble performing everyday tasks, so we need our joints to have the full range of motion to be pain-free.
Benefits of mobility training include:
– Improved range of motion/ freedom of movement
– Improved circulation
– Decreased risk of injury
– Reduced muscle tension and soreness
– Improved posture
– Ability to engage in activities that make you happy
Try it: Gently draw a large full circle with one arm and then the other, moving forward to back. Notice where there are any sticky spots. Moving each joint as it is designed to be moved (like in every Essentrics workout!) will help you find these places of limited mobility and help you gently and safely increase your range of motion over time.
I for Interconnectedness
Everything is connected. You’re not an ab or bicep, you’re a complex wonderful human made up of interconnected parts, that is in turn, part of a larger ecosystem. When we are in harmony with ourselves and our surroundings, we feel at peace. Essentrics will not only improve your balance and mobility, but your self-perception. Engaging in full-body movements that open your chest and help you stand taller through lengthening of the spine helps encourage this feeling of openness and confidence. Essentrics is not just about decompressing your joints or improving your posture, but growing and expanding your ideas around aging and your own capabilities. Interconnection is seeing your entire body: the energy you radiate, the heart that loves, the arms that hold so much, the belly that dances when you laugh. You’re a part of nature… as lovely as the trees and flowers!
Benefits of interconnectedness include:
– Increased compassion for yourself and those around you
– Ability to see the big picture
– Increased sense of belonging in the world
Try it: Reach your arms overhead as high as you can, keeping the shoulders relaxed with your weight slightly forward to prevent sinking in the lower spine. Gently bend your elbows, pulling them toward the back of the room. Imagine your shoulder blades sliding into your back pockets as you open your arms like the wings of a magnificent swan.
There’s a sentiment by Audrey Hepburn that goes, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m Possible!” Let’s move together, keep working with this new BMI, and enjoy all the possibilities life has to offer!
Contributing writer Andrea Strudensky