So that's what you started doing at Esalen.
Yes. I started noticing what kinds of choices made me feel good and what choices made me feel unwell. Later, when I started working as a therapist, I tried to help other people learn how to make similar kinds of choices, to design their own lives healthfully. I found that there was a real hunger for tools and skills of physical and psychological self-care.
Why do you think we are seeing this sudden interest in self-responsibility?
I think that a lot of us, whether we're psychologists or housewives or shoe salesmen, are discovering that we're not as healthy and fulfilled as we had dreams of being. A lot of people are discovering that giving all your faith and power to your doctor isn't going to make you any healthier. The feeling that "I don't know anything about my health and I don't want to know," which has been the predominant attitude in this culture, is really changing. People are realizing that an authoritarian medical system in which patients give over all their power to the doctors and function as though they're deaf, dumb, and blind just isn't meeting their needs. People are ready to take back a good deal of that power. People want to take care of themselves. And I think that the various kinds of body work are a big part of that.
What are the main approaches to body work?
One useful way of getting your bearings in the field of body work is to group kinds of body work by the general approach. Let me outline ten general kinds of self-care skills in the field of body work:
1. developing muscular strength and tone;
2. developing aerobic fitness;
3. developing flexibility:
4. developing relaxation skills;
5. developing breathing skills;
6. developing neuromuscular coordination;
7. using massage to develop sensory awareness and to fulfill our need to be touched;
8. working on emotions through the body;
9. using the mind to influence the body;
10. using the body to center the mind.
Of course, there's a great deal of overlap among these ten general approaches.
Developing muscular strength—would that be something like weight lifting?
Yes. That's one specific way. Pushups, swimming, tennis, basketball, housework, walking, running—any activity that uses the muscles. Anything that makes us really exert ourselves. Muscles that aren't used get flabby and lose their tone. In addition, it's important to remember that all the muscles in the body need to be developed in a balanced way. So activities that use a broad range of muscles are the best.
I'd like to ask you, as you go along, to suggest some of the best books for each of the ten approaches.
Sure. For developing muscular strength, the best overall- book is The East-West Exercise Book, by David Smith. General approach number two is developing aerobic fitness, building up the heart as a muscle. It's a very valuable addition to an exercise program to get a stethoscope and just spend some time listening to your heart. And, of course, monitoring your pulse is an important part of such a program.
In developing an aerobics program, it's important to remember that you need to perform a vigorous activity such as running, swimming, rowing, or rope jumping—wherein your body is exerting itself to 75 percent of its maximum pulse rate for at least fifteen minutes at least three times a week.
Two other excellent books on improving the health of your heart are Type A Behavior and Your Heart and The American Way of Life Need Not Be Dangerous to Your Health. The best book on aerobics exercise programs is The Aerobics Way, by Kenneth Cooper.