Exercise is about so much more than being fit–it is also a life-changing way to ground ourselves in our bodies and to enhance our minds.
By far the most liked posts that I have written since I began blogging have been my posts on the topic of health and wellness. So, even though I write more often about food or about kink and sexuality, it seems that more people are drawn to the content about physical well-being. That is intriguing to me considering this blog was born out of a desire to reconcile what it means to be non-binary and to live a successful and happy life. Is it that there are just more people interested in physical fitness out there than in food/recipes, or in mental health, or in kink? And such readers just skip the other stuff waiting for the nuggets on body wellness?
For me, all of these topics are inseparable. Our bodies need nourishment through food, kink feeds and is grounded in our mental health, exercise helps our bodies and our minds be ready for the world we live in.
We age. And as we age our bodies no longer behave with the same equanimity—we gain weight, we become less flexible, we get tired more easily, we don’t bounce back quite so fast, things don’t work quite so well. In other words, just to stand still, we have to work harder for it.
But the path our bodies take, a kind of degradational gravity—age like water, pulls us downhill—is mirrored by growth in wisdom, mental equanimity, and enlightenment. Okay, this is not guaranteed. If you want this, you have to work for it. What might this look like? Growing self-confidence. Increasing patience. More niceness. Generosity. Balance. At least these are the things I have felt in my own life. How about you?
Back to the body. My physical wellness journey was born of necessity—I had a physically and mentally punishing job that had me running two companies simultaneously, in different industries, and in different countries—indeed, on different continents. I was flying back and forth every two weeks and living in a constant fugue of jet lag. My body didn’t know where it was or when it was. Stress? Yes. On every level.
Taking the first step towards exercise was an easy one—I knew that it was important at its most basic level, for survival. But I hated it. I hated running, the idea of running, the idea of going to a gym (something I still don’t do), and never really liked the whole cult of looking in the mirror. Knowing you need to do something is very often just not enough. [Baby steps into this world written here].
Enter non-binary. Body image has always been important to me. Feeling good about my body, how it looks, how it feels. What clothes I can wear. One of the consequences of my professional life was that I was not liking my body. What motivated me more strongly than anything else, was wanting my body back…wanting a body shape that I could relate to. I am still not there but being able to rock a pair of short shorts is deeply motivating. [Feeling good in exercise gear is a general social phenom]. What motivates you? What will it take?
In part of her “disgust” round-up of my sexuality, my wife hates that I watch YouTube videos of women doing yoga, or exercise. [Blogged in part on this topic here]. I haven’t really gone into it with her, but I don’t watch them because I get off on them. These are my reasons:
- The exercise goals are more often in line with my own (long and lean v. building bulk);
- A non-binary FTM “lesbian”-leaning friend of mine described it as—“I don’t like her, I want to be her,” and I totally get that feeling;
- I would rather sweat with women than with men—I don’t enjoy watching men work out.
So yes, getting my body to a physical shape and working it in a certain way is massively helpful to me in providing motivation to go and exercise. But I realised recently that something has clicked, has changed, making exercise more than this. It has become a part of my way of life. It has become second nature. Rarely a day passes without me exercising. I love it. I need it. My body craves it. I don’t feel right if I don’t do it.
Is this the endorphin high that runners talk about? Maybe. What do I get from it? A lot of mental benefits. For one, it clears out the noise in my mind and helps me focus. Second, it kills nervous energy and allows my energy to be more clean, pure—I hope that makes sense. I don’t mean in the sense of good or bad, but rather cleanliness in the sense of being of one kind…focussed, without ripples, flowing smoothly.
It also puts me into my body. I learned from the book the Five Personality Patterns that my profile is characterized by issues of being in my body. That it is hard for me. I am also the “Vata” type in Ayurveda…”air”…which means long and lean, tall and slim, airy, cerebral, sometimes hard to keep my feet on the ground—and this Fall season is my season, the dry season. I wonder if this is what draws me so deeply to grounded people. People who are really comfy in themselves, in their skins, in their beings. So, in a way, exercise is a great way for me to manifest physically in a counterbalance to the weaknesses of my personality type.
And of course, the health benefits are enormous. When we are feeling good physically, then we are happier in our bodies. Mistress is teaching me about intent…being conscious about everything we do. This is not as easy for me as it might be for you—it will take work. I draw a parallel to my interest in ballet, and to do ballet workouts. There is something so utterly graceful about how dancers walk and move, that it is deliberate, thought leads to movement. Moving from our skeleton, not from our muscles. And this too, is helping me get inside of my body, to take up residence.
What am I saying? That exercise, physical workouts, are absolutely vital for maintenance of the body. Particularly as we age. It is also absolutely vital as a way to have a body shape that we are happy with and comfortable in. But this is not all. Exercise triggers mental processes that in themselves help us to come into our bodies. There are also mental processes which I am only beginning to be guided towards, which seem to be born from meditative practice, from yoga, from being more physically aware, and being intentional, that feed and enhance this body feeling. I wrote about touch here, and I think of touch a little bit like it being the reward system, or pleasure centre of being in the body. I have never been in my body in my entire life. I was born detached from it. This is exactly what the book the Five Personality Patterns describes.
What’s happening to me? I am discovering physical joy for the first time in my life. And gosh, it doesn’t mean sex—and thank goodness that kink is being recognised as a form of sexual preference—it certainly is for me. It is so liberating to think that I can be inside my sexuality without having to ascribe to heteronormative practice where sex is foreplay, intercourse, and maybe cuddling. Sex for me can be an exploration of power and eroticism, physical touch, and yes, cuddling (the best part!). And maybe this door that is opening before me, one of physical touch, is one that will apply to all of me and one that I will be able to bring to the rest of my life. I certainly want to try. I’ll let you know how it goes with my S.O. when I see her next.
Can I summarise it thus? Exercise leads to happy body feelings. Happy body feelings lead to comfort in self, and to more balanced mental processes. These factors create openness to touch. Touch grounds us in our bodies, and it is this very sense of groundedness which kicks off the process all over again. It is a virtuous circle. A happy by-product is getting to look good in a flouncy skirt, better still is the bounce in your step that comes from the joy of being in your body for the first time.