As a child, some of my fondest memories are in the playground. Swinging high in the sky, spinning myself silly on the merry-go-round and akwardly trying to make it across the monkey bars. Unfortunatley as we age, playing seems to go out of style and most of us dramatically begin to slow down physically in our 30 and 40’s.
Gracefully progressing through the fabulous fifties, I’ve noticed a rather sudden change in balance, strength and mobility. For the most part, I allow myself to give in to the notion that this stuff happens as you age and is part of the process. I’m aware of the fact that I should exercise more to prevent health issues but amid the daily grind of life, I’ve not put too much thought into visualizing what my body might look like in the next ten years if I do not consciously make an effort to slow down the physical aging process. A glance naked in the mirror can jolt me into realizing that 'physically' my body is changing and that change is happening fast. What the mirror doesn't show are the cognitive changes that are affected as my body changes. Understanding the science behind that has me anxious to somersault and stand on my hands like a kid in the park.
The goal to ‘fill my bucket list’ is front and center in my thoughts as well and I recently signed up for an adult tap class. Dancing has been something I enjoyed from my childhood days as a ballerina to the disco nights as a young adult. I’ve always loved to dance. Tap dancing has been in the back of my mind as that fantasy of an untapped talent I never pursued. (Pun intended) Finding a class that was convenient to my schedule, close to home and affordable remained an issue in fulfilling the desire to tap dance, until now.
The class I joined at the ME Body Studio fufilled all the necessary criteria for me to commit to my lifelong desire to put on a pair of tap shoes again. A fresh sense of excitement was building for the moment to stand in front of the mirror of a dance studio with my new tap shoes on. As class began, the movements felt familiar and the joy consumed my body and mind. I was over the moon at this opportunity and the way my body was feeling from the movements required to tap.
Week 2 of class, we begin to spin. In dance, there is a move called a pirouette. This is a complete turn of the body, aka spinning. As you spin, your head moves side to side in the direction of your spin. Across the floor I go and by the time I got to the end of the room and stopped, I was dizzy and off-balance.
Feeling defeated and old, I lined up to go at it again. Each time the dizziness was almost too much. Our instructor assured us that if we take it slow and continue to practice, our brains would learn the act of spinning again and the dizziness would go away.
Week 3 of class and my enthusiasm for tap has not wavered. However, the spinning is still making me dizzy. “I’m so dizzy, my head is spinning. Like a whirlwind, it never ends.”
Week 4 the instructor reminds us to take the spinning slow and “it will come”. She said the brain had to learn how to handle the spinning just as it did when we were young. The difference is that as children the sensation of dizziness was a new experience that most of us enjoyed. Our adult brains had been trained to associate dizziness with illness instead of a fun sensation, and we could know longer control the imbalance it caused. The more we practiced spinning, the less it would affect us. She was right! My dizziness was becoming less apparent and my body was holding balance as we spun in circles on both feet and then on one.
So as I tend to do when I learn something new, I did a little research and here's what I found. This experience suggests, that as adults we so easily give up on child-like behaviors and never realize the learning process of these behaviors is necessary to our well-being. As our bodies age and we discontinue utilizing the brain and body the same way, our brain forgets. We pack in all the stress of work and life and push out the ability to function. Amazingly, our brain can recreate the ability to do the things we did as children. It’s not just about eating the right foods, exercising or sharpening your memory. We need to stand on our heads, spin in circles and jump up and down for joy.
The next time you bond with a child, try partaking in the physical aspects of their life. Join them on the merry-go-round and the monkey bars. You will not only enhance your emotional relationships but prolong your physical aptitude and overall well being.