Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

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Dangerous Flexibility

By Sheila McNellis Asato

Resolutions_medYears ago, I quit making New Year’s resolutions and decided to just focus on one word for the year. Resolutions felt like a list of chores rather than exciting possibilities for exploration.  It’s no surprise that I often abandoned them as soon as the weather warmed up.  I also noticed that when I made resolutions, each one focused on an area of weakness, such as losing weight or organizing the house, rather than on new possibilities for growth and wholeness.  Once I changed my focus to just one word a year, something shifted and a new kind of creative energy entered the process.  In 2011, my word was STRENGTH; the year before that, the focus was on FLEXIBILTY.  Last year, I concentrated on RESILIENCY.

Choosing just one word has been incredibly freeing–leaving room for improvisation while giving me a sense of purpose and direction throughout the year.  I quickly learned that when I try to articulate every twist and turn in a to-do list, there isn’t enough room for the natural detours that pop up.  By focusing on just one word, I have a clear sense of direction with room for the unexpected.

Last year, the word STRENGTH led me back to the gym.  A sense of curiosity and play came into the gym with me, actually making it fun!  I really wanted to understand first-hand what it meant to cultivate strength in my body as I often suffer from chronic pain.  How would increasing my physical strength affect my relationship with my body?  Is it possible to exercise without creating more pain in the process?  I soon learned that for me, the key to cultivating strength was to work out more frequently, but for shorter periods of time.

During my first Pilates class, I was appalled to discover how weak I had become over the years.  One day, when I stretched much further than I should have and couldn’t get back up, my Pilates instructor warned me that too much flexibility without strength could actually be dangerous.  How counter intuitive!

It was one of those “Ah ha!” moments which made me think about all the other areas of my life in which I am very flexible but not terribly strong at self-care. Where else had I lost core strength while constantly bending to meet the needs of others?  What latent strengths did I have that could be built upon?  These questions led to a renewed interest in studying Japanese, as well as reconnecting with my love of music and Zen.

After focusing on RESILIENCY for an entire year, I also have learned that without flexibility and strength, it is impossible to bounce back from the many challenges of life.  In 2013, I will focus on SUSTAINABILTY.  I wonder where that will take me.  If you could pick only one word for the New Year, what would it be?