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When I'm 64... I'll do a full-tilt boogie

AndyGilatsNEW.bmpFrom Andrea Gilats, LearningLife director

Sometime between my high school volleyball days and my gotta-salt-the-sidewalk days, I lost my balance. About two years ago, I realized that I could no longer trust my body to right itself if I slipped or teetered. I now think that I gradually fell out of balance as I got older, and to compensate, I gradually acquired an oversized fear of falling on my backside and breaking my now-brittle bones.

What this taught me is that living at any age is a constant dance of tilting and righting oneself, both inside and out. So I started consciously working to improve both my physical balance and my sense of perspective. I became a student of balance, and if you're ready to read my Five-Lesson, Inner-Outer Balance Plan, I'm ready to share it.

Lesson One. Do lunges. Step your left or right foot - whichever you prefer - forward about two feet. Put your hands on your hips for balance. Then bend your forward knee to a right angle and bend your back knee to lower yourself. Go as low as feels comfortable, and then rise as slowly as feels comfortable. Let your legs, rather than your lower back, do the work. Do ten lunges - five with your right leg forward and five with your left.

Lesson Two. Admit that you're getting too old to be embarrassed if you fall. Stop worrying about losing face or looking silly. I have come to believe that losing face is a passing thing at most. No matter how idiotic I ever thought I looked or acted, the consequences were never serious. A healthy perspective goes a long way toward staying in balance.

Lesson Three. Time your lunges with your breathing. It's much easier to keep your balance if you're not panicking about falling over, and concentrating on inhaling and exhaling, rather than on falling, helps. Conscious breathing puts the physical risk in perspective.

Lesson Four. Even if you're capable of balancing your body, do the lunges anyway so that you don't lose that precious ability. Work yourself up to ten or more lunges on each leg. You'll love the muscle tone you develop in your legs.

Lesson Five. After your daily lunges, take a few minutes to check in with yourself to see if you have any molehills that might be growing, unnoticed, into mountains. When I do this, I usually end up laughing at myself. Perspective rules!

Maintaining inner and outer balance as we age is a dance, maybe even a full-tilt boogie, but for me, it has become a valuable daily habit. The interplay of practicing my physical balance and practicing a balanced life has given me greater self-trust and confidence, both inside and out. I hope you're out on the dance floor, too. I'll look for you!

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