It is very common to feel that exercise is a grueling, laborious task in which we drag ourselves outdoors or into gyms to complete. Ten reps of this, three laps of that, treadmills, spinning, sweating, panting, heaving, aching…you get it. Many of us have been there and done that. It can be especially challenging during this time of year, when the days are cold. I stopped looking at exercise that way a while back and it has been very beneficial for me.
Actually, I feel that some of the things I stopped doing allowed me to start moving without the strain and fuss:
First, I stopped calling it exercise and started calling it my “movement practice.” If I think about going for a run, a bike ride, or practicing yoga, I think about it as my movement for the day. Dance, lifting weights, yoga, swimming, cycling…You can apply this to whatever form of movement suits you. It is all movement. When we bring in our consciousness and presence, it is embodiment.
I also stopped thinking about goals, destinations, repetitions, etc., and I started realizing that any length or duration was just fine, as long as I feel good about it and listen to my body as I go. I can feel the burn and push myself without beating myself up. I can be gentle with myself and still feel like a warrior. It is easy to know when I need to continue or stop when I am listening.
I stopped telling myself I had to do it, and started asking my body what it truly wants in the moment. I find that when I am honest and truly listening to my body’s response, it is often that it wants to move and to be outside. And, on the flip side, sometimes it truly wants to sit and read a book with a cup of tea, and that is just fine. This can be nourishing in another way and I will feel all the better having fulfilled this desire. It will want to move again at some point, and if I’m listening, I’ll know when that is.
When I approach movement this way, it is much easier for me to get going. Many of us know the feeling that once we get going we feel great; that the hardest part is getting started. When we experience this, it is as if we are realizing what our bodies were saying all along. “Ahhhh…now I feel better.” That’s because our bodies are made to move. We are free flowing cosmic bodies full of the stars and water and the elements, and we are aware of it! How cool is that!?!? When I feel the answer, “Yes, I need to move,” I know that I can do it in a state of joy rather than resistance. I can be present for it and enjoy each moment I am in it. I can smell the trees, feel the sun and wind on my face, feel the earth beneath my feet, see the blue sky, puffy clouds and all the people wandering about their day. I can make this a time for joy, gratitude, and presence. I can make it a meditation, a mindfulness practice. In fact, I can make it a holy endeavor; I can make it a prayer. When I do this it is not only good for my body, but good for my mind, my heart and my soul.
I find so many benefits to this practice. I no longer feel the fight and resistance. I find myself feeling free of injury and pain. I also have more mental clarity and I feel good about my day. I feel good in my body because I gave it what it so desired. I feel nourished from being in nature, from being in my body and being in the present moment. It is a gift to give my body this and because of that, is a gift for those around me. Better yet, I can practice this with others. I can go for a run with a friend or engage in a yoga class. I can bring peace to myself, and peace to the planet.
Some of you might be saying, “Chill out, dude. You’re just talking about going for a run.” To that I say, if you’re really listening to your heart, you will hear its call. The more we can bring peace, presence, joy, and love into our lives in each of our tiny seemingly insignificant moments, the better. The more we feel full of love, the more love we have to give. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves. The world is obviously in need of all of us right now. It needs us to listen. We have to start somewhere. We can start by listening and taking care of our bodies. We can start by living fully in our bodies. This is the magic of embodied movement.