There isn’t an American alive today whose life hasn’t been touched by machines. And while technology advances our society, pushing human ingenuity to heights never before dreamed of, our immersion into life with machines cripples us as much as it aids us.
Think about how much we are surrounded every day by machines that turn on when we want them on, off when we want them off, and when broken are quickly repaired or replaced. We know what time it is when we wake up because our phone or digital clock tells us. We have coffee at our fingertips with the push of a button. Breakfast is ready in minutes if we need it to be with a few more buttons. Most of us take some form of mechanical transportation to work, be it our own cars, an Uber, a train or bus. We check our emails and text messages on our phones that has become our portable assistants, using it to keep our appointments, reminders, memories, and social interactions. At work, from the road construction worker to the CEO in the high rise downtown, we are using mechanized tools to complete our jobs.
And we don’t ever stop to think they need a rest. We don’t think they need a day off. They work on-demand, at our fingertips whenever we call on them.
The lines between machine and human being have become blurred for us. And so often, we treat our bodies as if they should run like machines. We’re even taught this to some degree. We’re inundated with information about how to keep a healthy body. Get enough rest, eat these foods, exercise 30 minutes a day at least 3 times a week, and so on and so on. All of which is excellent advice, but isn’t necessary the right advice for every body.
Sometimes we can be doing it all the right way—the diet, exercise and sleep—and still feel rundown.
Exercise can cause injury, and if ignored that injury can become debilitating. Yoga can be wildly beneficial if practiced in a way that suits your body’s needs, but if someone with a shoulder injury walks into an Astanga class because their doctor said, “Try yoga, it’s great for therapy,” they’re guaranteeing a worse injury.
A healthy diet of is different for every person. Peanuts and strawberries are healthy and wholesome to most, but can be deadly to someone with an allergy. I can eat spicy food all day every day and not have a problem. In fact, I’m pretty sure my digestion system loves it and it helps clear out my sinuses which are a regular problem for half the year with my seasonal allergies. My husband, though? He’ll have acid reflux for days after one spicy taco.
During my yoga teacher training, we learned alternate nostril breathing. This practice transformed my mental state, leaving me feeling calm and balanced. However, my friend in the class couldn’t do it without feeling like she was going to have an anxiety attack. Same practice, two different bodies, two individual reactions.
We are not machines. There is no manual for us. No one-size-fits-all daily life regimen that will keep us healthy and happy. So learn to listen to your body. If you’re always feeling tired and sluggish after eating a certain type of food, that food may not be the best for you. If you’re feeling your ankle throb every morning after your run, jogging may not be the best exercise for you. If only six hours of sleep has you downing a pot of coffee to get through the day, try getting eight. If eight hours of sleep leaves you feeling groggy and lethargic compared to days you get less, try sleeping six. If afternoon naps prevent you from falling asleep later that night, skip the sleep and try 20 minutes of restful quiet to get that second wind to your day. If you’re dead to the world by dinnertime without that nap, take the nap.
It can be disorienting to listen to ourselves rather than what the “experts” say, and it is difficult not to compare ourselves to others, but start with one aspect of your lifestyle to be more mindful and listen for a stretch of time. For example, start with your diet and keep a log of what you eat and how you feel afterwards. Start cutting foods that leave you feeling bloated, lethargic and gassy and start adding more of the foods that give you an energy boost and make you feel full and happy afterwards, and notice the impact on your life. Next, choose your energy. Log your hours you sleep and note the nights you slept better, was there anything different, i.e. no alcohol versus having a glass of wine with dinner, no screen before bed, warm bath, etc.
Let your body tell you what it needs, not the latest study on whether coffee is bad or good for us. No one knows your body better than your body.