It’s Love week at Sacred. I mean, let’s be honest: every week is love week at Sacred, but this week, heart-shaped post its adorn the walls. Sticky notes about strength and adoration have been turning up in shoes after class. Classes revolve around love even more than usual. Are you feeling the love?
I’ve had body love on my mind lately. Not just because we’re near Valentine’s Day, which I adore. Not just because it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. But because I was walking along a few weeks ago, and I passed a gym that had a sign in the window that said “Get Fit or Die Trying,” and I wrinkled my nose and kept walking, but it stuck in my head. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this kind of messaging. Hop on over to Pinterest and run a search for fitness motivation. I just did. First thing I saw? “Don’t stop when it hurts. Stop when you’re done.”
There’s this message floating around that our bodies are a thing to fight, that health and fitness require a banishing of limits, an inner drill sergeant completely overriding our boundaries. I’m not feeling it. I’m all for finding limits, balancing on the edge, pushing from a place of strength. I’m all for acknowledging that change is hard, that “getting fit,” whether physically or mentally or any other -ly, takes work. But I don’t want the effort to kill me. I want it to come from a place of love.
Push yourself because you can, push yourself because it feels good to do something new, push yourself in celebration of your own strength, knowing that the option is always there to stop, to catch your breath, to listen to your heart returning to its reassuring, steady beat. It’s an amazing thing, that heart of yours. Challenge yourself for the sake of challenge, do a little bit more than you think you can do, but please don’t die trying.
I see this with massage, too, in clients who ask me to go as hard as I can and in therapists who disdain relaxation massage or light work, operating on the belief that it really ought to hurt if you want any kind of reward. But to me, massage is all about softness. I’m all for deep work when it’s needed, but it doesn’t have to be a battle against the places that are in pain. If massage hurts and you’re toughing it out for the sake of release, I think it’s a little counterproductive. I’m here to make friends with soft tissue. So when I use deep pressure, it’s all about finding softness in the sinking, feeling for muscles releasing under forearms or fingertips, allowing for deeper pressure. More listening, less attacking. More cooperating, less fixing.
More body love.
So go ahead and do the work. Whether fitness is your goal, or living with less pain. But love yourself like you’d love a good friend making the journey, in celebration always of how far you’ve come and where you can go. And maybe instead of death, you’ll find yourself, in the trying, living that much more.
Megan is Sacred’s massage therapist and ardent fan. You can read more of what she has to say over at Bodywork Brooklyn.