Pietra Fitness is a Catholic exercise routine that mixes stretching with spiritual readings (mostly from the Bible itself) and prayers and a background of sacred music. You may be surprised that I would do that, after I have spent a lot of time and energy defending the secularised Western exercise regime that is marketed as Yoga but is nothing like the mind-body-soul philosophy that is practised in the East, but there is a reason for it. I was tired of doing something whose only source of relaxation was the focus on my breathing and on my movements, which requires my mind to consciously stop wandering around.
It served me well to use stretching to recuperate after a herniated disc and making sure that I wouldn’t get hurt again, but as stress became a bigger problem than my flexibility, it was hard to be motivated to do something focused on my body alone. I would find myself more inclined to sit in prayer or doing spiritual readings than I would moving, and with cold weather and still a chest infection the idea of prayer walks was out of the question. Pietra Fitness allows me to have the best of both worlds, incorporating my exercise routine into my prayer one. At the moment, I have started with a small goal of 3 x week, but I would love to get to the point when I can do the morning and evening routines every day unless circumstances really won’t allow. I love my Blessed is She devotions, but often feels more like studying the Word than prayer, and many times I’m just so tired it’s difficult to connect on a deeper level. It becomes a ticking the box exercise.
By engaging all of my body, Pietra Fitness has helped me being both more relaxed and more alert, which has had a positive impact on every other areas of my life and spirituality. It goes around the wall that I build up in my gnostic tendencies to favour the spiritual and intellectual over the physical, and gives me tangible benefit to all 3 (you can see the change in the definition of my muscles over the past 6 weeks already). Self-care often becomes a marketing gimmick to sell you face masks and scented candles (and nobody likes a face mask more than me), but I feel like I have really upped my game when it comes to it. Some days it takes the form of knowing when I really need rest, so much so that even mild exercise (with the demands of rearranging the furniture to make space, and change into workout clothes and taking a shower afterwards) are beyond me, and accept it doesn’t make me a failure.
Other days, self-care looks like making the time for hitting the mat, even on days when my husband is off work and I feel like I’m being selfish if I don’t spend every waking minute on such rare days with him. At times, I have just enough energy to exercise in what I wore to bed, toss it in the laundry and put on new PJs before heading back to bed right after the shower. Self-care still looks like herbal teas and face masks, but I feel now I am less superficial when it comes to it. Taking care of my soul is not something I do because prayer is a thing that I must do as part of the duties of a Good Christian, or just because God deserves due worship (that’s why we corporately go to Mass on Sundays), but because He meant it when he said that He’d give rest to those who are weary. I am weary, and I need true rest. I feel like it’s an obvious concept to most people, but I come from a legalistic background and so it was never obvious to me, until now, how prayer is key to self-care. Mere stretching would never be good enough for me again.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2020 on the subject “Self-Care”. Find the rest of the series here