I will never forget a morning some 10 years ago. I was 16 and my great grandmother was about 90 years old. Every morning she would get up and do some exercises. She walked slowly, but never missed a chance to go out on the porch, prop up her walking stick against the wall and then carefully put her hands on the railings. Then she would bend her arms slightly and claim she was doing push-ups. Afterwards she would move close to a tree, lean against it and do leg swings. Before that, as soon as she woke up, she would sit up in her bed and start rotating her hands and feet and rolling her shoulders. As she was doing the exercises, clenching her fists and then releasing them, she smiled and said to me: “Come on, join me. It feels very nice to do this every day, first thing in the morning.“
At that time I was playing basketball professionally, but I dare say I was never more unaware of my body and movement patterns as I was then. I just stared at her and declined politely, but I thought: “That’s bullshit. I have more important and meaningful exercises to do.“
Back then the only thing I considered “movement” was the kind of exercise that leaves you out of breath, sweaty and at least gives you a hard time to perform. I passed up my great grandmother’s invitation and I never even suspected how right she was.
This morning I woke up and just like every other morning for the past 3-4 years I opened my eyes. I stretched and got up. I opened the balcony door to let nature into the room – the fresh air, the birds’ song. It feels somehow different when the first thing you do in the morning is to welcome the new day – devote a couple of minutes from your busy schedule to it and enjoy the moment. It was nearly 05:30 and I had a busy day ahead of me, as always, but first and foremost I had one priority – myself and my body.
For the past couple of years I have set aside 10 minutes of every morning to get my body moving as soon as I wake up – and don’t you think I drop down on the floor from my bed for 5 sets of 10 push-ups each or do burpees for time.
I do just as my great grandmother did – I stretch, then do some hand rotations, some pelvic rotations, some twisting movements to loosen up my spine and a few wall stretches which also help me loosen up my back and shoulders. Nothing too complicated, just some movements to help me wake up my body.
And then it’s like life and energy start flowing through my body. I feel different and even more motivated.
Have you ever thought about what movement really is? For me it’s food to every cell in the body. Just like every food group provides different nutrients, different types of movement do the same for the body. But at the end of the day, what matters is not just the food we eat, but the food we absorb. The same goes for movement.The more mobile and active we are, the more we get out of different types of movements. The stiffer and more sedentary we are, the less we get out of exercise and the worse we feel. Many people spend their entire day like this – from the bed onto a chair, from the chair into the car, from the car into the office, from the office into the car and then on the couch and in bed. Movement is limited to sitting and we never stop to think how this starves our tissues.
Having mobile joints is not a whim or some kind of fashion – it is a necessity and a prerequisite for health. Mobility is youth, because only a mobile body can provide every single tissue with nutrients.
Where mobility is insufficient, the tissues starve, because they are not supplied with enough blood, enough nutrients and they slowly degenerate.
Besides, when we sleep, the body does not move. You probably know that the joints are enveloped in joint capsules which are known as synovial capsules. They contain synovial fluid. It contains nutrients and also acts as a lubricant. When the body does not move, the synovial fluid cannot do its job either. In the morning, when we wake up, we feel stiff, because the synovial fluid has become stagnant and if we move, we move the synovial fluid too, i.e. we lubricate our body and literally nourish it. You wouldn’t skip your breakfast, would you? Then why do you deprive your body of it?
When we move the respective muscles or stretch, the subsequent stretch of the joint capsule reduces the friction inside the joint. This forms a vacuum, filled of gases which are already dissolved in the synovial fluid. This way a gas bubble forms in this empty space, it bursts and the familiar sound is heard.
I sincerely believe the body’s condition has to do with the condition of the mind and the spirit. I believe that body stiffness is mind stiffness and vice versa.
And then we wonder why we feel so poorly, but we never stop to think about how we doom our body to degeneration and a slow death every day and at the same time our mind and soul suffer too.
When we sleep, we usually model our body in a certain way – do you sleep on your right side? I am sure you feel your right side tighter every morning and your shoulder and neck hurt and you wonder why that is. You are unaware that having spent the latest 6-8 hours in bed, sleeping on your right side, overtightens these muscles and makes you feel stiff.
Every pain has a history and that history comes down to our habits and everyday lives. Pain is just a symptom of what we do, but we turn abruptly to ourselves and our choices that caused it. We seek outside ourselves and take measures that only suppress the symptom, but do not eradicate the cause.
Old people – the ones above 80 years of age – are healthy and active, especially if they are not burdened by the modern way of life. What is it that allows them to enjoy an active old age and makes us suffer at such a young age? The choices we make every day.
The other day I was invited to the 90th birthday of grandpa Stefan who is more active and mobile than 60% of the people I know, but he is also one of those people who never stop moving and knows that every day is a new opportunity – to keep your health or give it up voluntarily – it all comes down to your personal choice.
And yes, 10 years ago I laughed in my mind at the invitation to do simple exercises every morning. Now I remember my great grandmother and do them gladly, because these are the movements that give my body life as soon as I wake up. I like turning to nature, because it hides the key to our health. Think about animals – look at your dog or cat. What is the first thing they do when they wake up – they stretch. Follow their example and set aside 10 minutes for the warm-up exercises we used to do in gym class – the feeling is worth it. And you can also do them during the day, at the office.