In Sweat Your Prayers, Gabrielle Roth inspires us with her transformative life story and generously shares the techniques that led her to emotional freedom. From her early years of attending a strict catholic school that encouraged feelings of shame about her body and sexuality, to a gradual embracing of her own wild, feminine energy, Roth traces the development of her “5 Rhythms;” a system for emotional and physical wellness that helped her overcome the suppression of her own vitality by the society around her.
Movement as a way to connect with the Divine Spirit or universal energy is an ancient concept, expressed through practices that include tribal dances, tai chi, yoga, as well as prayers from various religious traditions that instruct the supplicant to assume specific postures and positions.
“To sweat is to pray, to make an offering of your innermost self.” Roth describes sweat as “holy water” and says the more you expend, the closer you come to ecstasy. In her book, she describes the five rhythms as Flowing (feminine energy), Staccato (masculine energy), Chaos (integration of the feminine and masculine), Lyrical (self-realization), and Stillness (contemplating the mystery of the universe), each of which would be danced with a certain kind of music to evoke the specific rhythms or even with no music at all. Performing these rhythms brings our awareness and attention to these 5 energies - which we all inhabit - in order to bring about greater balance in our mind-body-soul.
Roth asserts that “working out should be like having a conversation with your body and spirit; it should be personal, intimate, and holy, not boring and painfully repetitive,” and I couldn’t agree more! While there’s nothing wrong with working out at the gym, machine-based exercises tend to work major muscle groups in isolation (rather than engaging the whole body) which does not mimic real life movements and activities. We were meant to engage in physical activity that’s fun and community-based. The #1 reason most people cannot stick to a new exercise routine is the lack of support. In the U.S., where we prize independence and individualism, this is especially problematic because we grow up with the mindset that we should be able to manage everything on our own without asking for help when, in fact, belonging to a group or community is what ultimately promotes holistic wellness.
So, what should we do?? How can we make physical activity a regular part of community life? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that we should start dancing more!