Thursday, June 16, 2011

Exercise: Father of the Body / Diet: Mother of the Body

I have a theory that works for me, which is that diet is the mother of the body, and that exercise is the father. The food is the support and the nurturing that sustains me, and gives me nourishment and the grounding that I need to give life to all of my dreams. The exercise stretches and pushes me past my limitations, inspires me to move forward and challenges me to develop strength and independence. 

Of course many of us have complicated relationships with our original parents, and tend to develop complicated relationships to food and exercise! How often have I been too strict and unforgiving in my exercise routine, or imbalanced in my diet? Our foundation is made up of these simple actions and habits, and I have learned to self-parent through trial and error. Taking the best of what each parent has given me.

As a child, I had a tumultuous relationship with my father, he was very young when he had me; he was exploring and getting to know himself. We used to joke that we grew up together. When I was about age 6 or 7, my father began to practice yoga. He was an Iyengar master. I remember our first family yoga book was Richard Hittleman. Our family would even go to a group class together, and my parents planned to start a company called PEP: Productivity Enhancement Program, which would bring yoga to offices, so instead of a coffee break, there would be a yoga break. Clearly my parents were about 30 years ahead of their time, because PEP never happened, but my father continued his yoga practice in the entry hall of our Bel Air home. Happy Days would blare in the background, and it would not be unusual to walk down stairs and find dad doing his Darth Vader breathing in some contortionist pose with his leg behind his head. As effortless as his yogic poise seemed, he could just as easily unravel himself and lash out with his temper. So I have no illusions about yoga eliminating all negativity, though without yoga, I am sure it could have been worse.

I learned to emulate my dad. To assume the position. My father was a business man, but a yogi at home. In an effort to get close to my father, I would contort myself for his praise, but moreover to experience what he was experiencing. If I could be in a pose like the one he was in, if I could read the books he read, then maybe I could understand him better. I studied from the Iyengar books as he did, and would awaken and copy the book - just like my dad. After my father passed away, I was in my first downward dog, and realized that he had passed something on to me that connected me to an entire lineage. It took me until he passed away to really understand what he gave me. And now I get to take the best of what he gave me, and pass that along to others. His daily practice was constant throughout his 60 (full!) years. His tenacity to overcome all obstacles  was contagious, and I adopted these qualities as my own.
My mother was born in a displaced person's camp in Germany. She came over on a boat after the war when she was three. Infact, as a little girl, she taught her own parents how to speak English. She would go to school and come to home with the latest lessons. She raised myself and my brother with loving patience and humor... and she always kept us entertained with Rolling Stones impressions. As she would cook the macrobiotic meals for our family, she would imitate Mick Jagger, singing into a wooden spoon. She would have us entertained for hours. We would watch Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live, and that irreverence and humor colored my entire childhood. Mom was a natural nurturer and teacher. I definitely got my teaching abilites and humor from mom. Yet she always had a tendency to take care of others first, and then lick the serving bowls clean for her own dinner. I had to keep the nurture, but learn to feed myself first.This month we want to find comfort and nurture ourselves. If you don’t have time to cook, Karma Chow is a great vegan delivery service. For an inspiring yoga workout, download my FREE Balance Routine. Diet is the mother of the body and exercise the father. Happy Birthday to my mom, on June 27th. And Happy Fathers Day to all the fathers! Complicated or not... we are grateful for your inspiration.


  1. I <3 this concept! Thanks for sharing your insights Mandy:)
    Peace, love & Sunflowers, Jamie

  2. How lovely...just simple and lovely