When we think of getting healthier, we often look to our diets, start an exercise routine, or visit the doctor for a physical.
We focus on the body. Health is about measuring our risk of cancer, heart attack, or diabetes. It’s about our body getting us to old age.
We define health as physical fitness.
It’s compartmentalized, contained, and confined.
Then we rely on our mind to get the body into shape. We ask it to have willpower, to generate motivation, to create plans and set goals.
It is the job of the mind to make sure that the body gets healthy. The drill sergeant for the reluctant recruit.
The Western world has divided us up, as individuals, into Body and Mind.
Two separate entities, making up one person, attempting to live in harmony. Or more accurately, one entity attempting to keep the other in line.
The messages you receive …
Your mind – logical, reasonable, rational. You can trust it.
Your body –emotional, unpredictable, instinctual. Too primal to make a good decision.
So our minds do battle with our bodies, day in and day out.
- Whip yourself into shape
- Suffer the pain of discipline or suffer the pain of regret
- No pain, no gain
- Sweat + sacrifice = success
- It will hurt, it’s worth it
- Suck it up, buttercup
We chant these mantras, pushing our body, telling them to just keep going.
And then we wonder why, three weeks in, we just don’t seem to make it to the gym any longer or crash on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
We compartmentalize our mind and our body into two separate entities, battling each other for control of the whole.
A holistic lifestyle is conscious and concerned about the environment
In our daily activities we take into account our impact on the environment. One favors biodegradable products, walking or biking, recycling, carpooling.
By committing to this path, we are sure to make savings and show the way to our entourage! Choosing to cycle or walk also increases your daily physical activity, which is perfect for your health.
Your mind and body are not two separate things. You are not your mind inhabiting a body.
You are a whole being. Your every bit and piece parts of the whole, connected so intricately that a single point of disconnect can be detrimental to all.
Dividing ourselves into pieces makes it easier to comprehend, yet we are more than just parts.
You just need to read recent research on the microbiome to understand the intricate nature of connection that exists within us.
Good fitness programs will guide you through the process of finding a healthy mind-body connection. They won’t just focus on willpower and motivation. They understand how your mood, your stress, even your way of thinking will impact how you approach fitness.
Not surprisingly, they often have at their heart the teachings of yoga. A practice from the East, where the dichotomous view of mind and body hasn’t caught on.
The practice of yoga promotes embodiment .
Psychologists define embodiment as the assumption that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are grounded in bodily interaction with the environment.
Feminist look at embodiment as the lived experience that bridges the gap between culture and nature.
Read also: 14 Great Tips to Feel More In Control
The intertwining of all the elements of being you.
Here in the West, that is considered a healthy mind-body connection.
But we forget that the whole is not complete with just mind-body.
Holistic fitness focuses on performing movements according to what each person needs. These movements are based on those that the body naturally performs in daily life. Most consist of locomotion, rotation, level changes, pushing and pulling.
The soul has gone missing from the question of our health
The immaterial essence, your compass.
When I think of my soul, I think of passion, desire, values, love, connection, as if it is what binds me together. The glue, if you will.
Imagine if that glue were to weaken, if you forgot it was a piece of the whole. What if you sacrificed what nourished the soul, the glue, in pursuit of health.
Then you really wouldn’t be all that damn healthy.
I’m not interested in having a healthy body if I have to give up a nourished soul or nurtured mind.
Sustaining unhealthy habits doesn’t just mean I’m damaging my body, I am damaging whole self.
Holistic fitness is natural
Nature maintains a perfect balance. It gives us everything we need from birth. In the sense, a natural diet, combined with exercise similar to what our body would normally need to do (connecting with the functionality of our bodies), with proper rest in a sense of community, are health.
A general fitness program should seek to reconnect us with what we were anthropologically designed to do years ago (and have been losing with the modern lifestyle).
We must learn to manage our body weight, run, jump, swim, row, lift weights off the ground, balance, etc., while seeking to become more powerful, explosive, resilient.
Health is a state of being – body, mind, and soul – the whole of who you are.
This is what I call holistic fitness. Not the condition of being physically fit, but the pursuit of thriving as a whole.