Updated: Feb 24, 2022
I recently turned 32. This month, in fact. I have worked in the fitness industry since I was 19, so I have over a decade of experience behind me. Not only that, but I have always had a natural curiosity that has led me to pursue many paths and avenues to uncover the most efficient and effective ways for training. Over the years, my terminologies have shifted as a result of a shift in my philosophies regarding the human body and its potential.
When I was 19, I worked as a personal trainer in a globo-style gym called Virgin Active. I was just one of a number of replaceable names on a board there to provide a product in line with the terms and agreements of the brand, and to pay my monthly rental fee of approximately R6000 per month. The whole thing is based around the business model (or was, I can't speak for current environments) and not on the quality of service or product. As a young man attracted to status and symbol I became attracted to the potential to earn a comfortable income following this business model, however, I soon came to realise that I wasn't going to survive for long in that kind of system, for a number of reasons;
I had no idea where I was going. I didn't have a sense of direction or purpose. I found no inherent deeply profound meaning or worth in my own training and I didn't know how to attract the right clients because I had no way to prove I could do what I wanted to do.
All I wanted to do was help people. I didn't know how I was going to do that when every person I saw had such deeply individual needs that I didn't have the necessary knowledge or wisdom to truly help them in any meaningful way.
Over time I have reimagined exercise and fitness through a movement-focused lens. One that focuses on the integrated human animal as a product of evolutionary processes. As an extension of the planet, and nature, and the animal kingdom. As a species that cultivates and creates and invents stories and narratives to find meaning and purpose and connection. We are inherently social animals that together very well in tribes. We tend to excel and thrive in community as opposed to isolation. We have a profound ability to empathise, communicate and strategise, and to assemble together in coordination and purpose to achieve incredible feats. Purpose and meaning have driven human existence to become what it is by allowing our imaginations the space to dream and then being able to articulate and express that dream to other humans in such a way that it may become a reality through collective effort and enterprise.
Without meaning, there is no purpose. Without value, we cannot find meaning.
I am starting lean more and more towards the idea that to help someone to find healing is to help them uncover meaning and purposeful practice that they willingly invest in because they believe in its capacity to help them heal. This is kind of a-round-about way of saying that mindset and personal narrative are major factors in the whole process and the more someone finds genuine fulfilment, the greater the chances are that we can use what ever it is that brings them fulfilment to drive their healing process. Also known as the placebo effect.
I work in a physiotherapy clinic and we achieve some amazing results with patients but in my personal experience, the people that believe the most in what we do are the ones that find the most benefit and see the greatest improvements. There are obviously many aspects at play in any individual's recovery but those that believe they are getting better get better quicker that those that don't. It's just that simple.
I have experienced the same in my personal experience after working through multiple sporting related injuries. Physically, I came from training that created a lot of imbalance and vulnerability in my body and over the years of research I came to realise exactly how out of balance I was. My musculoskeletal instrument was completely out of tune and needed a complete service. In my experience of working my own body, I have seen the greatest changes, and improvements, when I truly believed a process was working for me and when I was able to associate some deeper level of importance to my practice which which made me want to engage in it more often and with more attention and intention.
Exploring the world of dance has been tantamount and crucial in helping me develop meaningful narratives to apply to my overall practice. My personal physical practice has morphed and moulded and evolved into something unique and completely its own. It is an extension of myself and my self expression. I am able to apply any narrative I choose to, whether that is more pragmatic and scientific or if it has roots somewhere in mythology or esotericism. It has provided me a window into my psyche and allowed me to peek at my emotional and spiritual self. It has given me the tools to step out of the sense of self and my identity and idea of ''I'' as this being with these desires and thoughts and longings and fears and look at this self from the perspective of the observer. Through dance, I found permission to express myself through a kaleidoscope of emotional ranges and identities. It is an extremely powerful and useful tool that is about so much more than performing on stage. Dance can bring about the most profound kinds of healing when approached with the right mindset and given the right guidance. I am eternally grateful for the teachers I have had along my journey that have invested themselves in my development and provided such a safe and nurturing space for me to grow my expression naturally. It is something, I wish many more people would bring themselves to attempt to give into the liberation of the physical body and opening up to the space inside and around us.
When we take a moment to look at the bigger picture, maybe step back and admire the depth and detail of what is in front of us, perhaps we are able to notice that having this human experience is entirely a physical one and although we separate ourselves endlessly from our physical self, it is in our connection to it that brings about real freedom and a life of purpose and value that we can connect to and be grateful for. We can find profound states of healing and help others to do the same. We can achieve more physically, emotionally and psychologically. We build a tolerance and an "anti-fragility" to the demands of life and give ourselves permission to fall back into synchronicity with nature and the evolutionary process. We make ourselves a integral part of the greater ecology of existence and being and in that there is value and meaning that pervades and pierces deep into our DNA and perhaps, dare I say, connects us to some sense of ancestral inheritance that has always been there waiting for us to accept and take ownership of.