Monday, December 31, 2012

On Exercise, Hibernation and Mindfulness

The last few days have been days with some "Wow!"moments for me with my son. After almost two months of no outdoor play or any other physical exercise whatsoever, besides the usual jumping and prancing around, or the occasional breaking into a dance to some Kailash Kher music, Raghav walked almost a kilometre today with me to a local shop and back! My feelings are those of amazement, wonder and elation!....and I had to share these through my writing!

His "hibernation" if one can call it that, started some months ago, when he had severe stomach ache on a trip to Madurai with my husband who was on work. Ever since we came back, he stopped going down to play. Initially I did not force him as I thought he was still recuperating and was tired. Soon, I had to do away with my evening "walking"time too as he did not want to be alone at home on his own. I relented finally after much hesitation and a lot of argument. I could not think of any creative way to get him to go down and exercise his muscles a bit, without getting into long, heated arguments, or long-winded explanations, that I soon got tired of. Like many other things that we have let go of so far in this journey, I let go of this too.

How did I let go? I realised finally that once again the root was in fear - fear of what would happen to one's body without exercise, whether one would fall sick, or feel lethargic, or get stiff and "not-in-shape". These were the reasons that drove me to push him to go out and play. I realised that I had pushed myself too.

There was yet another incident that happened in the last month or so, that added fuel to fire. Some weeks ago, after the few showers that we had here, the Corporation had started fogging some areas. Twice, we were down when that vehicle came into our apartment complex. Raghav did not like the smell at all and was bothered by the sound of the machine. Ever since, he has been closing all doors and looking out off and on, in fear. There were many times when I was very worried about this intense fear that he had and thought I had to get help from somewhere and someone. There were times when I felt like I was in prison with no fresh air and sunlight. We fought a lot over this.....had long conversations about this.....and tried many other things......but nothing worked.....until we just stayed with this feeling, accepted it and understood the depth of it. Then he started trying to go out for short bits of time.

Before all this happened, he loved going down to play frisbee, cricket, football, and cycling with his friends. Although it has always been an effort to get him to play outdoors, once he started, he was okay. We used to be downstairs for an hour at least and sometimes much more.....and I started getting my daily workout through playing with the kids and walking around the complex. I thought that that would keep me in good shape and pushed myself to walk for at least half an hour every day. Many a time, it was tough to get this time for myself. But I persisted. Then I realised that I was not really listening to my body and was sometimes pushing myself too much - so on days when I was tired after having done a lot of chores at home too, I was pushing my body to complete what I usually did everyday.

It was then that I realised that unless I stopped and listened to my body, Raghav would not do that too. So from then on, I started walking mindfully more often, whenever I could. I started listening t o my body. I stopped when I got tired without pushing myself to do "just a little more". When I did that, I felt better - not too exhausted, and even slept better at night. And after these two months of hibernation, I can say that I have lost weight, sleep better at night, am less irritable and have more energy to do things! Strange but true! What's the secret? I don't know! It could have been the hibernation or mindfulness or both!

Raghav - way ahead!
Today, I had to go to the flour mill which was about half a kilometre away. I suggested that we go walking so that I get my sunshine and fresh air for the day, and that it would be a different and exciting thing to do, instead of taking the car. I also recalled how he had walked effortlessly, more than a few kilometres last week, on our trip to Coonoor, when we had gone exploring through the tea plantation, to reach the Nilgiri Mountain Railway line, just in time to see the quaint steam engine and old coaches chug past us! He was immediately all excited to walk and surprise his father when he came home that evening.

I was surprised too that he agreed readily without a fuss, but apprehensive about what would happen along the way - would he ask to be carried (Raghav has been attached to my hip and my husband's shoulders ever since he was a toddler!)? would he ask that we take an auto? would he jump and scream in the middle of the road that he could go no further? So many thoughts raced inside my head!......but I shushed them, smiled and carried on. Going with the flow, with an empty mind helped. He finally walked all the way to the shop and back without a whine! He was proud of himself and I was proud of him! It was unbelievable that he walked so much after a long hibernation of sorts!

It left me questioning many things - our fears about lack of daily exercise, our conditioning and definitions of what makes us fit and healthy, how much exercise does one really need, whether we sometimes over-exercise, not listening to our body signals and so on. So then, can we allow kids who
want to be indoors, the space and freedom to do just that? Can we wait till they show a "readiness" or a need to go out and play? Can we trust them to listen to their own bodies?

I think we can....and I have learned that from being with my son once again!

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