When I was younger, I understood the concept of practice in the context of the Merriam Webster Dictionary definition: “to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient”. As a child who participated in many sports and played multiple musical instruments, practice referred to the events I worked on to improve my technical skills. At practice, I would learn how to do better through acts of repetition and intentional change.
Eventually, I chose to centralize my practice towards my passion for dance. With my goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer, practice took on a whole new layer of meaning. I worked daily and repeatedly at a set of physical movements in ballet to improve and refine my technique. This repetition led to growth and mastery within ballet and my practice became understood as a necessary means that would result in self-improvement.
As I got older, my conception of practice began to evolve. My practice became grounded in the habitual sense of coming back to something. There was still a level of mastery that I was after, but it was more so realized as a continuous and infinite pattern that I felt compelled to return to. Year after year and almost every day, I would start again at the ballet barre where I would repeat the same series of physical movements. But the sameness of this repetition never bored me, because everyday was different and I was different everyday. Every day brought its own joys and challenges, and everyday I came back with 24 more hours of lived experience. Everything surrounding me was in a constant state of change and the stability of my daily practice became like a refuge for me, one that I could always return to and find comfort in.
As I reflect on how I approach my practice in the present, I have found that in many ways, practice is similar to a routine. The habitual nature of both concepts are the same, but practice puts an intentionality to the repetition and implies a sense of growth. The contents of our daily routines can be the same as our daily practices, but approaching our daily routines as daily practices can drastically reframe how we approach our lives. For me, practice no longer only refers to the physical practice I put into my dancing body. My daily practices encompass how I approach my life, what I eat, what time I go to sleep, how I take care of my body, and how I take care of my mind.
After being involved in swimming for over a decade, I may be a bit biased, but I truly believe that swimming is the best workout that anyone could do. Swimming offers a relaxing, serene workout, but can also push you to your physical limits. Swimming has helped me stay at my peak physical fitness level and has helped me feel happy and healthy every day. Here are the top 10 reasons swimming is the ultimate fitness activity:
1. To swim you have to use the majority of the muscles in your body Swimming engages the entire body. To pull through the water you must use your arms and shoulders. To propel yourself through the water you use all of the muscles in your legs to kick. Your core stabilizes your body in the water and gives you the strength to breathe side to side. Swimming even gives your lungs a workout. On average, swimmers hold their breath three strokes at a time. Holding your breath builds lung capacity. All in all, swimming is a total body workout!
I am a dancer. One of the greatest gifts that dance has given me that I apply to my everyday life is awareness of my physical body. Dance has given me the time and space to be fully aware of all of the possibilities my body holds. It has given me an understanding of what I can only corporeally know, creating space for me to listen to my body. For me, there is no separation between life and dance because we are constantly in motion even when we are still. There is choreography in our everyday life, whether we are continuing patterns or creating new ones. Therefore I find that listening to our bodies and being aware of our physical bodies should become a daily practice, especially in the difficult circumstances of the present time.
Our bodies are hyper-intelligent vessels that have the ability to hold and absorb an incredible amount of information. The body often understands things that are happening to us before we are consciously able to understand them. For example, as infants we enter into stages of crawling and walking through the intelligence of our bodies. Most of us can’t remember when we first started crawling or walking, but our bodies remember even when our memories forget. Before we learn how to speak or read, we first understand the world through our physical bodies. The intelligence of our bodies is limitless and when we allow our bodies to take over and find time to listen to our bodies, I believe we will be surprised by how much our bodies have to say.
So how do we go about listening to our bodies? Connecting to our bodies can happen in multiple ways. For me, I find time to connect through my daily practice in dance. However, I believe that listening to the body can happen whenever we consciously choose to do so. Physical activity might be a gateway to understanding how to listen to our bodies because we are constantly sending signals between our brain and body when we are moving. However, this connection can be lost if we are not conscious of how we move. Being distracted while moving is a significant problem of our generation. Treadmills and ellipticals in gyms have TV’s, we text and walk, or check our emails while commuting. These distractions, while engaging in any type of movement, make us skim through the process of listening to the body. Therefore, it’s important to understand that even in stillness, we have the ability to tune in to our bodies. A quick body scan at the beginning or end of the day can make a huge difference in our wellbeing. Try asking yourself the following questions: