Gratitude as a Training Tool: Praise over Punishment

Flexibility training requires vulnerability. Shame is a terrible tool for coaches and students of stretching

Stretching is vulnerable. Stretching is exploring the boundaries of your own mind and body, standing at the edge of who you are now and peering into the wild lands beyond, playing along the borders of what feels safe and, gradually, expanding those borders.

This process requires patience. If you run headlong into the wilderness you may well get hurt, sending you back to your fortress to recover.

But the truth is that sometimes we prefer to hurt ourselves; it is easier and faster. Sometimes we get angry at our bodies and want to lash out. The world around us is full of false messages accusing us of being the wrong size, shape, age, color, gender, or ability.

We are surrounded by self-destructive behavior and we are encouraged to do the same, laboring under the false belief that if growth comes with discomfort, more discomfort means more growth. This is not true, particularly with stretching. Often more discomfort just brings ouch!

Only you can know when more becomes too much. Only you can learn your body’s language. Maybe you don’t know now, but you can learn. Unlike the kamikaze approach to learning, the process requires vulnerability. It is vulnerable to be a beginner, to not know. And every time you stretch, you can think of yourself as a beginner all over again. Every day you have something new to learn.

Gratitude is a powerful tool in this approach to stretching.

If we get angry at our bodies for not doing what we wish they would do we greatly increase the chance that we will injure ourselves by creating tension (anger and frustration change your body chemistry and increase muscle tension) and making you not listen to your body’s cues. Gratitude can counter this anger and frustration and create the perfect atmosphere for you to do your work.

Find joy in your training sessions, even when they are difficult or frustrating. Because you get to try.

Every time I find myself feeling frustrated or impatient with my training or comparing myself to someone else, I come back to gratitude. I am grateful that I get to try.

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