How Physical Exercise and Emotional Exercise are the Same Process – Part 2

Amazing news – I found the muscle that my Pilates teacher was looking for; the impossible is possible. If you remember from my post a few weeks back on how physical exercise and emotional exercise are the same process, I was somewhat defeated by this seemingly impossible task she set for me.

To be perfectly honest, my goals when I signed up for Pilates were less admirable than my teacher’s. Summer was beginning and I was hoping that she could help me create the illusion that I had some muscle tone after the longest winter in Chicago’s history, when I may have indulged in a bit more red wine to compensate than usual.

My teacher had something else in mind. She explained that superficial muscle tone is relatively easy to achieve, but the real strength comes from the muscles deeper within the core. What? Deeper core muscles? What was she talking about? Aren’t core muscles deep enough?

Subtle, yet strong

Let me digress for a moment. Have you ever been to Cirque de Soleil? If not, I would highly recommend going, but for now the point is just that the women in the show are really small. But even without the bulging muscles that we associate with strength, they can lift themselves into nearly any position that the human body can achieve. How can small women have so much strength that is not visible to the eye?

The real strength comes from deeper muscles, and they are able to achieve much more than superficial muscles. I should know this as a yoga teacher because we were all taught about “root bond” or “Mula Bandha”. These are mysterious muscles at the base of the pelvic floor that should be lightly engaged throughout the yoga practice, allowing for a safe and strong yoga practice. Actually, the benefits from subtle engagement of mula bandha are said to go as far as helping attain enlightenment.

Even though we are supposed to engage mula bandha when practicing all poses, no one actually does. Well, maybe my yoga teacher does because she is surprisingly little and can also lift her self up into a lot of positions seamlessly.

The point is that subtle muscle strength is more important than gross muscle. Could the same be true of our emotional lives? Could subtle emotional muscle strength be more important that gross emotional strength?

Access the subtle emotional muscles

We can access our gross emotions quickly: anger, frustration, resentment, guilt, pain, sadness, or victimhood. But what about the subtle deeper emotions that are stronger and more important: compassion, vulnerability, joy, forgiveness, and acceptance?

I worked really hard, sweating away trying to isolate this deeper muscle in Pilaties and it struck me that I feel the same way when I am looking for deeper emotional muscles. The gross emotions want to take over just as my gross muscles wanted to help me with my Pilates. But, with patience, the subtle muscles kick in and a deeper strength does appear, just like in my emotional life.

When I am in very challenging situations, I have to sweat it out to find my deeper core emotional muscles. But, when I do, they are so much more powerful.

In fact, while I was doing this difficult Pilates move, it wasn’t just my gross muscles that wanted to take over – it was also my gross emotions. Those big, easy emotions wanted me to feel angry about the difficulty of the exercise instead of excited to build a new, stronger core. But once I made contact with those deeper muscles and emotions, I was able to lift up from these deeper muscles and relax into my deeper emotions.

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