I was walking by a fitness center the other day and a slogan written on the metal frame of its TRX Suspension Training apparatus caught my eye.
It read: “Make Your Body Your Machine.”
Disclaimer: This is not a slam-piece rant on hardcore exercise. Far from it. I fully encourage healthy, informed, and moderate exercise for all ages. I’m a recreational swimmer, hiker, and biker—but I’m not a fitness fanatic: I don’t pump iron and I don’t have a bulging biceps, ripped abs, sculpted body…nor do I want one!
I just think this whole bodybuilding culture has run amok; needs a reality check; and—more to the point—is in dire need of a radical reappraisal of the Body Beautiful.
So let’s give it one.
But first, although I’m not a bodybuilding enthusiast or historian, it seems to me that this once-considered-socially-deviant subculture, was permanently popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger when he won the Mr. Universe competition in 1970. Since then he, and thousands of others—not to mention the spinoff multi-billion dollar supplements industry—have not looked back.
So here’s the thing: I’m not opposed to rigorous, nutritionally- balanced, supervised exercise at fitness centers: If that’s your thing, go for it; but like any sport (extreme or otherwise), I’m uneasy with the image, excessive intensity, and dehumanizing advertising that oftentimes accompany this sport.
To me there is nothing more elegantly alluring that the lithe body of a young ballerina… or the voluptuous curves of a richly-endowed Italian mama.
But what really grosses me out is seeing posters of champion bodybuilding women—all as shiny, brawny, and sinewy as their male counterparts. Makes me want to boke (Irish for puke)!
The problem: from plundering the natural resources of the planet for excessive and obscene energy consumption, to the pharmaceutical corporations who want to pump our bodies with chemical preservatives, we look upon nature, the natural world, and the human body as machines that—of themselves—are impure, imperfect and inefficient.
But the human body is not a machine!
It is a multi-dimensional, exquisitely-designed, living, breathing organism that can only be defined in a communion of inter-relationships: mind, body, and spirit interwoven with the entire web of (conscious) life—and interwoven in a symbiotic relationship that is fundamentally sacred in character.
It cannot be defined or experienced in glamorized isolation.
Our relationship with our body needs to be spiritual and organic if it is to thrive and flourish. It needs attentive listening to; it needs kindness, intimacy, and tenderness; it needs to be nourished with natural organic foods; it needs the exuberance of free-flowing play and exercise in nature; and it needs sacred silence to rest in – alone and with others.
What it doesn’t need is to be treated like a machine; to be controlled, subdued, and suppressed; to be programmed (or synthetically supplemented) to produce more of what it already has enough of; to be measured for performance or ‘beauty’ against the poster models; or to be made feel inferior in a culture that has such a skewed notion of the Body Beautiful.
Let’s grow up people. And bring our body home.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: elephant archives