Nature has laws that we as nature’s children need to live by. There are certain rhythms like the circadian rhythm than man’s internal body time clock is tuned into from time immemorial. The tribals live by the laws of the land, sun, sea and atmosphere. For them, its nature that determines when they wake up, work, eat, play and sleep. That was before artificial light and electricity came into being. No matter how much time you spend in artificial light, our body-mind craves the real sunlight.
The sun element is important for natural exercise. We are like plants; we absorb the sun’s rays and create vitamins and energy from it which sustains us. We breathe oxygen from plants and trees which they naturally eliminate. There is a natural demand for movement from our body which we term exercise as there is a natural symbiosis of rest and relaxation too.
We are no different from animals and plants in our body requirements and structure. The only thing unique to humans is awareness. Awareness of unity in all the diversity of beings. Awareness of the Universal laws of nature, internally and externally. The more we live in tune with these natural laws, the more sustainable and joyful our lives can me.
The animal moves. It moves in the normal course of its day’s activities. It moves in order to get food, it moves in order to find water, it moves in order to find safety and security, rest and sleep. It moves in order to play or protect. Movement is the way for the body to get exercise. They don’t have to do any special exercise routine or have a gym or group class in the forests. Our bodies are animal-like in their composition. No wonder most of the yoga poses are taken from animal postures and movements! After all, yoga is the most ancient exercise of them all. The wisdom of our bodies is inbuilt in every cell and sub-atomic particle of the body. In the time of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, their daily lives involved a lot of movement, bending, squatting, walking, running, standing. They woke up with activity and were active until they fell asleep. They never needed to exercise and lived till ripe old ages of 100 years without any lifestyle diseases.
Have you seen a dog wake up from his sleep? He immediately stretches his haunches and then stretches his back…that is yoga asana downward dog and upward dog for you! How many dogs have you seen with real spine issues, even the stray dogs? Rarely! How many humans have you seen with spinal and back problems? All and sundry!
If one can listen to the body, tune into the body’s natural rhythms on a moment to moment basis, one might observe that one cannot sit still for long periods of time or be in any one position for too long. We will notice that we will need to get up stretch, move, walk, bend, twist, turn after half an hour or forty-five minutes maximum. When you do that consistently, you might notice there is more flexibility in body and mind, more energy, vitality and less lethargy and stiffness. Also, over a period of time, it increases productivity and efficiency.
From an evolutionary perspective, we are hard-wired to operate in nature, having evolved to do so over 6 million years. Or, conversely, we haven't evolved over 6 million years to be comfortable in concrete boxes, under artificial light, staring at glowing screens in the seated position for hours on end, commuting in cars and trains, getting little chance to move and essentially ignoring the natural rhythms of sunrise and sunset. Such environments are likely to provide persistent aggravation and result in chronic stress without any chance for it to abate. Getting into nature, which can be something as simple as taking a walk in a park, will reduce stress and act as a countermeasure to the urban, modern life.
How do we get to naturally exercise our bodies and be connected with natural trees and plants for small parts of our day? Can even just sitting in a chair be an opportunity for us to listen to our bodies voice to move and exercise? With pressing deadlines, a fat grouchy boss, and unearthly working ours that completely go against one’s own circadian rhythm, what are the possibilities?
According to the Circadian rhythm of nature – all night our bodies have been stagnant. The first sign of sunlight and we stretch and move our bodies to get energies moving for the elimination of waste to occur naturally. However, some of us are early morning people, others are evening people and yet others afternoon. We have to discover our natural propensity to our circadian rhythm and exercise, work, rest, sleep according to that.
One can use the chair to give us movement – a. Twisting, b. Turning, c. Sit-ups d. even stretching arms out on the top of a chair. If there is a window nearby, sip a glass of water with your eyes closed by that window. Frequent 5-10 minutes rejuvenations can help productivity and efficiency.
If there is a park nearby – choose to eat your lunch there. And before lunch how about a walk or some yoga on the grass. Just 10 minutes suffices for the body to feel energized.
Hug a tree on your way to work. Try it. It works wonders. And then try and hold a sturdy branch and get a stretch. Look up at the sun and sky and trees – it will naturally stretch your nape muscles which house the hypothalamus and hormone secretion improves instantly.
Breathing – anytime you feel stressed at work and feel that ‘you need to get out of there now’. Listen to your body – climb the stairs to the terrace, or take a walk around the building if there is no greenery or garden nearby, go for a drive if you have a car, just move your body, emotion is nothing but energy in motion and stress is that which locks emotion and therefore energy locked in a space.
Write down lists instead of keeping them in your head, our fingers house our nerve endings and when you tick things of a list that are done, neurotransmitters called dopamine are released which increase our level of confidence vis-à-vis completion of tasks.
Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and oxytocin are neurotransmitters our body releases when the brain sends out signals based on certain actions our body does.
1. Endorphins – any kind of body movement we require at that moment to get energy moving at that time.
2. Dopamine – any task we complete, however infinitesimal it is – as long as we appreciate and acknowledge it (therefore the list and ticking it)
3. Serotonin – any kind or helpful or charitable action we do and feel good doing it releases this one.
4. Oxytocin – positive physical contact – shaking hands, pat on the back, hug, cuddle, playing with a puppy, any positive social interaction.
Any activity which brings joy and anchors us in the present moment is good. In practice, it can be dancing, gardening, yoga or anything else. Let us listen to our bodies, they have an innate intelligence that will propel us in the direction it needs to move and release blocked energy on a moment to moment basis and lead to more presence of mind, happiness and productivity.
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