I hear almost on a daily basis from clients, moms at the park, or someone chatting on his phone in line at the post office – “I’ve GOT to exercise, I haven’t in two days!” Look, I get it. I believe exercise is the most underused wellness prescription and practice available to ALL mankind. (yes, you can even sit and move your energy!) The endorphin flow, strength gains, mind sharpening and pure delight I experience from movement – in whatever form – mean a lot to me on a daily basis. Yet, I believe our relationship not only to our bodies as a whole but to exercise and how we define it needs an evolution.
I believe How You Move is How You Live. Or, as Five Rhythms founder Gabrielle Roth says in her book Sweat Your Prayers, “You are how you move.” You can replace “move” with “exercise” or “practice fitness” or “run”. As someone who’s taught classes in commercial gyms and boutique studios, to being surrounded by women who led exercise videos, to teaching yoga at a ballet school, to sitting on someone’s basement floor as a personal trainer, to watching my 15-month-old tilt his head left and right and shake his hips when music plays, most of us are inclined to wrap up our bodies and exercise/movement into packages we tape or unwrap with a strict set of when/how rules. Unless you’re a drooling toddler or otherwise young kid, modern culture has warped our relationship to movement and, therein, the way we move through our lives.
Pay kind attention. Below you might find yourself or your relationship to exercise (and your life) in one or more of the four examples below. Have fun with it, practice noticing where you recognize yourself, no need for harsh judging or shaming. Pay attention, say “aha”, and know that healthy, enjoyable, sustainable movement through life – literally and figuratively – is possible. The first step to change is awareness.
The Exercise Wagon – Like the diet industry, as we’ll soon be reminded the closer we get to January 1 (or this coming Monday), the exercise/fitness world operates in the same way. Programs, infomercials, dvd packs, gym specials, gadgets – they all want you to believe their program or product will be the holy grail to lift your butt out of your chair. Sign up, commit for so many days, adhere! Sometimes the enthusiasm for change – because it’s truly needed for many reasons that have nothing to do with cellulite or marriage proposals – steers folks to an overzealous commitment that leads to burnout or injury or both. Then, they’re off the wagon. The dvds get dusty. Knees and backs ache. They might as well take an extended break. These dear souls forget that their body deserves a place in their daily life, not on a conditional bookshelf.
The Marathon Mama – Not to be confused with January 1, the Marathon Mama (or Daddy) has an extreme relationship to exercise All. Year. Long. Too much is never enough. It tips way over the point of training for a marathon or other long athletic event in a sustainable way. The Marathon Mama is a fiery soul who moves through her pain despite the screaming signs to slow down. She’s likely missing some other red flags in her life that could use balance and compassion too. The good thing about Marathon Mama is that she’s eager to try movement in different ways because she wants to consume it all, she might be open to learn about body awareness. Just a thought, but she might need to expend her energy repertoire to more outlets than exercise – like a more creative life by visiting some nourishing hobbies other than compulsively exercising.
The Sofa Sleeper – I could have used Couch Potato, but I can’t resist thinking of a brown russet potato growing exterior roots and brown aging bruises. Not a very motivating descriptor. The Sofa Sleeper comes in all shapes and sizes – potato-shaped, green bean, apple, banana or completely asymmetrical like fresh ginger root. Easy to doze through life. Maybe check in, check out. Maybe terrified of lace-up sneakers because of an old bully on the fifth grade playground. Probably and highly likely someone with a rich, interior world. The Sofa Sleeper needs some structure; it might not hurt her to buy one of those fun dance dvds to teach a little confidence and hip-swiveling moves before trying a local dance class. Dear sensitive soul, she needs a hand to hold, some support to strike her moving-match.
The Nibbling Grazer and Moonwatcher – This wildflower is probably the least found but most desirable by the body and soul. She moves her body and exercises because she loves how it makes her feel. No need to count steps or even wear a watch (unless she’s got homemade bread – or a frozen lasagna – in the oven). She walks outside to get a dose of vitamin D or bundles up in the morning to try to find a sliver of last night’s moon fading down through tall tree branches. She dances through her house because she loves music and the freedom of spinning through space. She doesn’t need an audience but wouldn’t mind a playful, compassionate crowd. She sleeps better when she’s present in her body and practices being aware of transforming her energy through a regular yoga-or-otherwise-mindful-movement-or-creative practice. She’s been there done that. She trusts the flow of not only her body but money, relationships, births and deaths, fears and dreams, morning and night. She mindfully guards her heart but also makes mistakes. She’s far from perfect. She’s moody and selective and sometimes fiery but knows how to get grounded through healthy measures. She forgives (herself), she asks for support, she pays attention to her feet and turns up the music.
How do you want to move? How do you want to live? These two are connected, they are related, they are necessary to unite and love and practice to live richly and consciously. When we start asking these questions and exploring our habits, it can seem overwhelming. Or, you can look at it as an adventure, an opportunity, an invitation to embody your way of being, your way of moving.
To experience a more mindful movement (exercise) practice, click here.