Why self-kindness is more important than a handstand press

My mom comes from a lineage of intellectuals, her parents were both educated and educators, and while activities of sharpening the mind were very much encouraged in her house, physical activity was non-existent. This is how my mom discovered, for the first time in her life, at the tender age of 32, after earning her PhD, that she could do a full split. I was a toddler at the time, and she decided to see if perhaps her little girl had such special abilities too. To her amazement, I did. I grew up and a few problems started to appear, like the fact that I had really flat feet and had to wear orthopedic shoe, or the fact that I was diagnosed with hyper-laxity as well as hyper-activity, as every girl growing up in the 90’s and displaying my symptoms would (which today would have all been categorized as a hyper-mobility syndrome, but back then it wasn’t a thing). As an attempt to help with both, my mom decided that some physical activity would be good for me. My abilities turned out to be a double-ended sword. At the age of 9 I was singled out, and was chosen as a physically gifted child. Not long after, I had started training for double digit hours per week. While I was very flexible and I worked hard, things were far from easy for me. My ballet teacher called me “noodle”, to indicate that I had long, yet very weak limbs. On top of that, I was quite awful at picking up choreography, and had to work twice as hard as my friends to memorize the steps. I also had to work harder to build up my strength, and if my friends had to do 100 sit-up, I had to do 200. But I was determined to reach my full potential, and was encouraged to do so, as I was, so my teacher claimed, very special. I pushed through pain, I would cry and keep going, nothing mattered as long as I was on my way to become the best version of myself I could possibly be. I strove to be perfect, and was praised for my hard work as well as for my accomplishments. I learned that pushing through the pain and persevering was the way to go. By the time I was 15 I was finally strong enough to be able to make my body do pretty much whatever I wanted it to. I would bend in half, invert, jump, or do four pirouettes on demand. Sometimes my own. But then, when I was 18 I got injured, I lost total control over my body, and for years could not do nearly anything, I couldn’t even walk. While grieving that loss, I used those year to earn myself a couple of degrees and please my family. After a long rehabilitation I was able to start dancing again, and while I started getting back into shape quite slowly, by the end of my time in New York, I was dancing about 30 hours per week + taking Pilates classes, yoga classes and doing aerials. I had literally been at my peak, probably close to reaching my genetic ceiling. Once again I could will myself to do pretty much whatever I wanted to. Then, when I arrived to Tel-Aviv I became frantic with keeping that level of fitness. It was literally impossible, and with every single day I felt myself getting weaker, less fit, my technique deteriorating. I was so obsessed that it took about two minutes till everything I was afraid of happened –  I injure myself, and actually lost the ability to dance, or train, or walk, for that matter, and I had to stop. While feeling so strong, I had become a slave to my own body, and I was mentally so burned out that my body had to force me to take a break. Even while injured I couldn’t see it, it took me time and some perspective to realize what had happened. But when I started my rehabilitation I realized something was wrong, if I loved dancing so much, if it was my passion, why was I suffering so badly? I was never encouraged to take a break, to take care of my body, only to push. I had to turn 30, have a few severe injuries and a couple of surgeries to realize that I had been on the wrong track, I had been abusing my body for the wrong reasons. I am only now starting to learn that self-kindness and nourishment are way more impressive than a triple-pirouette or a handstand press. It is also a much more promising recipe for happiness and for being a healthy person.

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~Lir


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