Saturday, 8 June 2013

Empowerment, Conditioning and Liberation: Working out with the 'Sabrina perspective'

Two weeks into a fitness programme, and I am already well into the self-sabotage phase. Luckily I have a bit of perspective this time. The course I am doing was designed by Sabrina Domenosky. It's no longer an available course, as Sabrina is now a top business coach in Australia. But this is a sort of reunion programme, of the same course I did a couple of years ago. Before London, and life, tried to get me on the ropes. 

In everything Sabrina does, it seems to me that she is following the principles of yoga – which are, Empowerment, Conditioning, and Liberation. 

Empowerment because this is not about fitness doctrine, this is about giving you the tools to become your own fitness coach. You'll get all the encouragement and inspiration you need in Sabrina's programmes, but she is not doing it for an ego trip. She invests in you, but that means 'if you love them, let them go.' But she is not going to let you go until she has given given you everything you need to be master of your own body.

Conditioning, because this is about reconditioning yourself over a period of time. This is not about flash changes. Even though the workouts are designed to have as much impact on your health in the shortest period of time, the programme has to be considered as a global project, not as a quick fix. In order to do it, and to stick to it, you have approach it in the right way. And to a very great extent that mean approaching it in a relaxed way. It's not about beating yourself up if you have a sneaky pint. Or feeling depressed because you missed a workout. It's not about that. The main focus is your goal. And chances are your goal is going to involve intense reconditioning. 

Any form of conditioning is as much about the mind as it is about the body. Of course, for an instructor like Sabrina, there's no question that they are one and the same thing. So reconditioning yourself requires a bit of perspective. Short-term thinking is just not going to get the result. Take one day at a time, but think of this as a long term change. It's more than six weeks, and it is deeper than a six-pack. It's about accessing your most authentic and powerful sense of yourself and fulfilling your mental and physical potential. That means you are rearranging aspects of your psyche and thus your body's habits.

Liberation? As I said, following on from the conditioning, you cannot recondition yourself unless certain things become unstuck. Your boundaries of impossible and the scope of your perceived potential, have to change. You have to be able to see yourself as the embodiment of your own fulfillment. You have to be able to take on negativity and allow it to run its course before you simply let go of it. Letting go is the hardest part of any form of change. It's terrifying. You feel you may be letting go of things that have helped you survive in the past. And the truth is you probably are.

None of us puts on weight for no reason. None of us develops an eating disorder unless we are responding to certain environmental factors. Reconditioning ourselves, means liberating ourselves from the conditions that created these disorders and negative habits. Almost every negative habit is, in some sense, a coping strategy. And very often our coping strategies become ends in themselves, well beyond the point of being necessary.

But because these coping strategies were so crucial, and we developed them when our sub-conscious had its proverbial back against the wall, these habits have actually become very important to us in some way. 

You have to think about your negative habits as dysfunctional relationships. You love them, because you understand why they are the way they are. But the fact that you love and understand them does not take away from the truth, that they are unhealthy and they have a destructive effect on your life. And like leaving a dysfunctional relationship, we have to approach the break-up in the right way. It has to speak as equally of your love as it does of your readiness to leave. 

If you don't acknowledge this love, as much as the fact that you are moving on, then you may find yourself falling back into the relationship in a time of stress. It's easy to fall into the familiar when life starts to grind and sting.

So even liberation is a long-term process. It means understanding yourself, and forgiving yourself, and being patient with yourself. It means understanding that you are the way that you are for very real reasons, and that however negative and destructive these habits are, they are to a very great extent the products of your genius to survive and protect yourself.

Change not only takes time, it takes space. If you don't give yourself the psychological space to develop, all your changes will be superficial. You'll be fighting against opposing forces that are only going to get stronger the more you push. Real change means understanding yourself and realising that your goal is to reach a level of a freedom, to give your mind and body the versatility it needs to live with the greatest impact. Training and self-development are not narcissistic enterprises. They are about fully articulating the ecological strength of being human, and that is a process of discovery.

Liberation can only come when we are present with our bodies and learn to live fully in the internal space that defines us. The scary part of this is that to do so, we have to face up to what we can and cannot change, forgive ourselves for any destruction we might have created, and forgive others and the environment around us, for not changing with us.

Liberation is not about being lovey-dovey, or bullshit peace and harmony. Liberation is about finding the roots of love in even the most devastating war. Words of hate come out of the language of the love. Our battles with ourselves come from our earliest and most primitive attempts to take control and survive in a seemingly chaotic existence. In light of that, forgiveness means a hell of a lot more than letting ourselves off the hook. It means commending our sub-conscious self for having done the impossible and managing to integrate conflict, contradiction and paradoxical drives. But with this crucial shift in perspective, we can carefully, as a mother bathes her child, renew our life strategies, and they no longer need to be about constant struggle and repression and conquest. 

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