Rhythmic Fitness: A Complete Approach to Exercise, Sports and Creative Play
Jack Painter, Ph.D.
The Frustration of Getting and Keeping Fit. Most of us have at one time or another experienced the satisfaction of having a well-conditioned body — a sense of firmness, strength, endurance and preparedness. But how often have we become frustrated as our fit bodies become excessively contracted and out-of-balance from the stress of our physical training? Or how often are we disappointed and guilty as it becomes increasingly difficult for us to maintain the daily and weekly routine we so enthusiastically started with. The root of our difficulties lies in the common and self-defeating view of our bodies as objects or instruments which we use to achieve such goals as power, beauty or efficiency. Rather than forcing our bodies to do our bidding, there is another approach which gives us more than temporary moments of satisfaction and helps sustain prime fitness and health.
Inner supportive Energy. Rhythmic Fitness is not a simple set of exercies, but a dynamic, whole approach you can use with exercises and routines you have already learned or are learning. It is a way of getting in touch with our core vitality. Inside, beneath our tendency to manipulate ourselves, is a current of energy which flows in natural stages and can support our movements rather than frustrating us as we try to discipline ourselves. When we are flowing with our core vitality, we not only are stronger with more stability and endurance, we also are patient, flexible and relaxed. We can then fully enjoy our exercise, whether it be personal accomplishment, sports competition or creative play. Your fitness can be a celebration and expression of your life, rather than a means to something else.
Stages of Core Vitality. Just as every living cell expands and contracts in a wave-like sequence, our inner vitality prepares itself, grows, crests, contracts and relaxes. When we exercise in tune with this inner rhythm we express ourselves more completely in our tissues, feelings and thoughts. We become more of what we can be. In each of the following stages there are movements which come easily, supporting our physical, mental and emotional balance and allowing us to flow from one stage to the next: 1) being at rest, 2) filling up, 3) opening the gates, 4) freeing power, 5) making a final surge, 6) peaking, 7) sustaining a plateau, 8) coming down, 9) creating rest. When we block or manipulate the flow of this vitality, our bodies pay a high price for the strength they may temporarily create.
Riding the Wave. In becoming physically fit it is important that our breath, mobility, metabolism and muscular action are appropriate to each stage of the energetic wave. Whether we are racing for the finish line, reaching high for a ball or spinning in a summersault, all of our experience, all our body movements, naturally move toward completion. But if we sprint too soon, reach too high or turn too hard, we break the flow of our action. We act too soon or late, or with too much or too little effort. On the other hand, we can stay with our own vital wave, riding and flowing with it, in three ways: 1) we can stay within the stage of energy that we have developed (e.g., not sprinting before or after it’s time); 2) we can flow from one stage to another (letting our surging energy become a sustainable plateau); 3) we can complete one wave of activity before beginning a new one (resting between sets of tennis).
Breath, Self-Massage and Guiding Imagery. At each of the stages of the way toward physical fitness we cultivate the unfolding core energy by engaging our complete self — body, feelings and mind. At rest we breathe slowly and softly without much charge or discharge. We move simply to hold our energy and balance, touching ourselves lightly to hold and accumulate our reservoir of energy. And we orient ourselves without goals and with images we do not try to fulfill. Later in the wave, as we surge, our breath is both fully charging and discharging. Our bodies strive toward complete action. And as we find ways to stimulate the opening of body tissue, we create specific images of what we will, without effort, release at the peak of our movement.
Rhythmic Fitness is offered as a self-help method which, when mastered, can be used by individuals in their own fitness program. It can also be followed in private sessions with a qualified coach or practitioner who helps with any special problems. Finally it can be part of a supervised group workout in which you can share the pleasures of achieving and maintaining fitness.