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ABOUT THIS EPISODE:
What do you think of when you hear the word fitness? Going to the gym? Going for a run? Yoga? For most of us, fitness is something that we do. We block off an hour or two during the day to focus on our physical health. We get our sweat session in, but then what?
On the show this week, we are joined by Aaron Alexander. Aaron is a manual therapist and movement coach, as well as an author (The Align Method), and host of the Align Podcast. Aaron’s message is clear. Fitness is not what you do – it’s who you are.
Our bodies are under construction 100% of the time. The way we sit, stand, walk, rest, and move daily, sends neurological signals to our brain that determine our perceived state of safety and health. With some awareness, we have the ability to engage with our bodies on a second to second basis in a way that can promote a stronger baseline of health and happiness. Without our health, what are we left with?
Chronic pain is a huge issue in our country. Everyone has something: a bad ankle, sore back, stiff neck, tight hips, the list goes on and on. So what are we doing about it? For a lot of us, we might be repeating the action day in and day out that’s causing the pain. Postural patterns are the root cause for most of the aches and pains that show up consistently in our bodies. We spend the majority of our time in postures that go directly against our native disposition and physiological patterns. We sit at desks hunched over computers, we drive everywhere, we lounge on soft furniture, and compulsively stare down at our phones in positions that stiffen the neck and spine.
The main differentiator between us and one of the healthiest populations in the world is not in the way we work out, but in the way we rest. Aaron brings up a study that investigated a tribe in Tanzania. Like us, they were in “resting positions” for about 9-10 hours per day on average. But their resting positions look a lot different than ours. They squat, kneel, sit cross legged on the floor, and spend that resting time in positions that are conducive to their anatomy. The body wants to feel good, that is it’s natural state, but we inhibit our body’s ability to feel good by abandoning these ranges of motion that are naturally good for us.
So what can we do? Aaron stresses the importance of setting up your work and living environment in a way that makes it easy and accessible for you to get a full range of motion. Get some floor cushions or a comfortable rug so you can sit on the floor, put a pull up bar in the door frame to hang from (hanging is one of the best things you can do to return your body to it’s natural alignment), mix in a standing desk to your work routine every once in a while, go on a walk. But ultimately, just be aware. Pay attention to how your body is feeling at every moment throughout the day. Identify the postural patterns that are causing you pain and discomfort, and strive to find positions and ranges of motion that make your body feel good.
The concept of alignment surpasses just our physical bodies. It also has to do with our ability to regulate emotions. Our physical body and our mental perception work in cohesion with one another. If there’s negativity and pain in the mind, it shows up physically in the body. If we have pain in the body, it affects our thoughts, perception, and happiness levels. Taking care of your mind and body as a unit and providing signals for them to work together is the key to living aligned.
In Aaron’s words, “sleep is a weapon, nature is a weapon.” Emphasizing a regular sleep pattern, and prioritizing time spent in nature are two of the best things you can do for your mental health. Play is another key element to a happy and aligned life. We are under the impression that we need to work hard and earn time to play. But Aaron would make the argument that when we make time for and prioritize play, we work better. What is play? Anything that makes you feel alive. Follow your bliss, build your life around it.
The body is filled with levers we can pull on to change our state, but so many of us are blind to what these levers even are. Aaron does a fantastic job in this episode of bringing some of these levers to the surface and giving us a playbook to be more in tune with our body.