We’re at the start of the year and many people set New Year’s resolutions at the start of the month. A significant number of these are to improve our health and wellbeing, and I’m all for that. Many of them fall by the wayside, and I’m ok with that too. I will do what I can to assist you in achieving yours (if you set them).
Personally, I don’t set resolutions at this time of year, but think more about an intention for the year. This time of year can be quite a struggle in the Northern Hemisphere with the dark of winter, the cold and wet weather and the comedown from the excitement of Christmas. If I really want to change I will work them out and set off on the new course as I feel ready at whatever time of year. The intentions I set often take the form of a Word of the Year and in 2024 I’m revisiting Flourish, with support from Strength, and Nourish.
Just before Christmas I saw a post on either Facebook or Instagram from one of the Massage Schools that said
“Motion is lotion, rest is rust”
This really got me thinking, and with the push of New Year’s resolutions to improve yourself, I wanted to consider the two parts of the statement. I agree with the sentiment, but not with the statement. I totally agree with the motion is lotion part, but is rest really rust? Short answer: no, I don’t think so.
Movement is good for us
Our bodies like movement: it helps to keep the joints healthy, helps with cardiovascular health and aids the return of blood to the heart especially from the legs. It helps to stimulate the digestive system and keeps things regular. Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) get us moving and help us get active. They’re the fight flight hormones and so acting on them help us to resolve and process them, and the body reduces the levels of them in the system (to put it incredibly simply). Our joints need movement to actually keep the cartilage that covers the surfaces pumped full of nutrients, which they can’t get directly from the blood as they have no blood supply. This is why people with the start of osteoarthritis are encouraged to keep moving, as it keeps what cartilege is remaining healthy, as well as keeping the muscles stronger and healthier than by not moving.
Is rest really bad for us?
I don’t really agree with the second half of the statement, that rest is rust. Let me try to explain.
Yes, our modern life is very sedentary. Most of us spend a lot of our time sitting down, probably in a chair, and not moving for hours at a time. Thanks to office jobs and streaming services we can spend a significant amount of the day in one place. That is the part that is the issue: we just sit.
I’m just going to put my opinion forward that standing desks are a solution to being sat down but they may not be the miracle cure that people claim. We can stand as awkwardly and uncomfortably as we sit. We are still being kept in one spot and not really moving. Yes, we may shift our weight from one foot to the other, but that really isn’t the same as walking around or running or “properly” moving. I used to work in retail so I’ve spent a long time standing, as well as having done the computer based office job. Both weren’t great. The transition from sitting all day to staning all day, also takes a while. The body needs to get used to standing for many hours at a time. Trust me, I had to go through the weeks of standing on the shop floor letting my legs and feet get used to being used. My circulation wasn’t improved by being still. The chances of me developing varicose veins probably increased (yes, there may also be a genetic component) as gravity was pulling downwards, but by standing still my leg muscles weren’t really pumping the blood back up to the heart, thereby putting strains on the veinous system.
Is sitting (or standing) at a computer really rest? I don’t think so. They are both just immobility, and is very different to rest. Rest is recuperation, restorative. We need periods of that sort of rest, and not just at night. It is the immobility that is rust (to come back to the statement), but really our bodies are designed to be able to sit, or stand, for periods but to be moving between them regularly.
The cult of productivity
The other insidious thing about that statement is that it drives the idea that every single moment of our lives needs to be PRODUCTIVE. We can’t possibly spend any time DOING NOTHING.
We are being PRODUCTIVE when stuck behind our computers in an economic sense and this is fine as far as modern society is concerned. But that period of time of productivity is completely a period of immobility. And that is potentially the unhealthy state. The potentially overwhelming stress of modern life.
But this is not Rest.
Rest is giving our minds and bodies (although they’re completely intertwined) the chance to stop, to unwind. We need to stop, give our bodies the chance to recuperate, to recover from the activities and stresses of the day. Yes, rest can also be to move to restore balance between the fight/flight and rest/digest sides of our nervous system.
Rest is allowing the body to do something different, something restorative and helpful in returning to a place of balance, of neutrality. Finding a level of homeostasis and a reduction in allopathic stress on its systems. Periods when the digestive system can quietly go about its business without the body demanding other things to be more active.
Make a choice, be active for the most part, but allow yourself to stop and rest, truly rest, without guilt at being unproductive. Hey, if I remember rightly, even the Bible says that God stopped and rested on the seventh day.
A more nuanced poem
So to wind back to the simple statement, things are more complex than can be stated as motion is lotion, rest is rust. We all want things to be simple and straightforward, but I keep realising that we’re complex beings and the answer is also more complex, more nuanced than that.
So yes, set an intention to be more active. But also give yourself permission to stop and rest. I can then try to be poetic and turn the statement into a haiku:
Motion is Lotion
Immobility is Rust
Sometimes, Rest is Best.
I hope that this makes sense. We don’t always have to be on the go. It can be difficult to not feel guilty when stopping.
Thanks for reading this.
How can I help?
I can offer the following treatments and classes as ways of helping your find the balance between motion and rest.
This appoach can help you find a bit more ease with movements, especially if things are a bit sticky. It can also be soothing and restful in its own right.
This is probably more about getting you moving and freeing up stiffness and overcoming aches and pains.
A very calming and relaxing treatment, that can help restore your equilibrium.