Have you ever forced yourself to do a workout because you thought you “should” or because you thought you “had” to.
Would you believe me if I told you that 98.5% of the time I go to move my body I genuinely feel excited about it?
I talk A LOT about finding the joy in movement but what does that mean? To me it means using movement that is enjoyable as a way to connect with & appreciate my body for all it is capable of. I also move for longevity & sustainability especially as I age so I can keep doing the things in life that make me happy.
There are so many incredible benefits to moving our body that has ZERO to do with changing it! Increased strength, mobility, flexibility, reduction of stress, anxiety & nervous system regulation. Movement can make us feel capable & confident by improving the quality of our everyday lives. It can help improve proprioception (awareness in space) & interception (going inward & feeling your body from the inside out), mitigate injury & decrease pain sensations.
My role as a Yoga Teacher/Joyful Movement Educator is to educate & support people in being able to do the movement activities that make them HAPPY as well as introduce people to a variety of ways of moving that makes them feel good in the body they are in NOW!
Sticking to movements that brings us joy is not only great for our physicality but also for our mental health & wellbeing. According to the book Body Respect by Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor “research shows that switching focus to pleasurable movement & play, health gain & body attunement is far more effective in supporting a sustained increase in activity level than a focus on exercise for weight loss. When we switch our focus to finding ways of being active that make us feel good & that we can fit into our schedules, we’re on the road to living life more fully.”
**Here are 5 of my favorite ways you can start to embody
#joyfulmovement right NOW!**
1. Focus LESS on weight-loss and MORE on how Movement makes how you FEEL!
If “weight-loss” is the main attraction as to why you move your body, it won’t last. Here’s why. First off “weight” is not an accurate indication of health so really the number on the scale means very little if health is your goal. I’m considered “over-weight” according the BMI & I am the healthiest I have ever been.
Let’s say you love tracking numbers. I hate to break it to you but eventually at some point your body is going to plateau & the number may increase especially if you are lifting weights (muscle is denser then fat).
According to the Body Lovin’ Guide by Taryn Brumfitt & Dr. Emma Johnston “The mistake is often engaging in exercise programs with weight loss goals. Exercise, like dieting, is not an effective weight loss strategy. The weight may drop at first but then plateau, leaving people feeling frustrated & upset that the exercise is no longer effective, based simply on this one variable of weight. They forget that the exercise is still improving their mobility, strength, fitness, endurance & more importantly continuing to provide positive mental health benefits. If weight-loss is the goal, movement won’t be sustained.”
Let me also make it clear that I’m not against a person starting to move & they lose weight. Some will lose weight, some will gain & some will stay the same. What I don’t believe in is weight loss being the number 1 reason behind why you move & exercise.
2. Find an activity you enjoy, have movement options & don’t be afraid to try novel movements.
Let’s talk about how joyful and intuitive movement can improve one’s body image, confidence & self-worth! Take a moment to think about the time & energy that goes into dreading & dragging yourself into a physical activity that you don’t enjoy. Why not steer that into something you DO enjoy!
I can remember the days of forcing myself to do hours upon hours of cardio because I thought that I “HAD” to if I wanted to be skinny. Now if I do cardio is because I want to! As an ex-over exerciser this approach to movement works for me. In fact, my confidence has improved as a result.
It’s important to have Movement options that enjoy as well! Not only do options help mitigate injury & create new patterns in the brain, but the more options we have that we enjoy, the less boredom we experience & therefore the more consistent we will be in the long term.
I would also suggest trying something new! Novel movements are great to invoke a sense of present & focus! There is also a correlation between novel movements & decreased pain! How cool is that!
Kathryn Bruni-Young writes about “The Magic of Novel Movements” in that “our brains don’t have any associations with them. It’s like we have a fresh slate when we do new things. If novel movements have little to no associations, we can have new experiences of our body when we practice. This is really great news for those of us who have experienced pain & injury or are just feeling uninspired.”
3. Move with a community where diversity, accessibility, progression & FUN are celebrated!
Your vibe attracts your tribe! Surround yourself with a community of movers of all sorts of different shapes, sizes & fitness levels that focus on feeling good & having fun!
The environment you choose to move in makes a whole world of difference when it comes to creating a healthy relationship with your body & exercise.
Here are some reasons as to why it is important to have diverse & inclusive spaces for everyone & everyBODY:
- To encourage acceptance and appreciation of ALL bodies & fitness levels.
- To celebrate & encourage diversity.
- To reduce stigma and discrimination around what a “mover” should look & perform like.
- To reduce the harmful messages we see portrayed in the media around movement.
- To ensure no one is excluded from receiving the benefits of exercise & movement.
- So that someone keeps participating in the long term.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are comparing your body to someone else’s, stop & focus on all the incredible activities YOUR body is capable of.
4. Ask yourself, “is my movement practice improving the quality of my life?
It’s in our DNA to move! Each day I wake up & I ask myself, “what is it that I need or want today? What is it that I need to feel good for the rest of the day? What areas of my body feel like they could be “loaded” or lite up? How much time & energy do I have to give to my movement practice today? This personal inquiry is called “intuitive movement.”
I strongly believe that our movement practice should improve the quality of our life so whether that means feeling capable in every-day life activities or cross training so you can keep doing the other movements & practices that bring you joy, it should enhance us rather than deplete our energy & make us feel bad about ourselves.
When I was at the peak of my addiction to exercise, movement was NOT improving the quality of my life. I was constantly injured, constantly anxious, I was chronically fatigued & developed insomnia that lasted for almost 2 years. I’m aware that my situation was extreme, but I still think many people move out of obligation, shame, punishment & guilt.
5. Practice movements that make you feel confident, powerful & don’t be afraid to set movement goals!
I don’t know about you but lifting weights & building strength in my body makes me feel confident. In my experience adding strength training to my movement diet has improved the overall quality of my life. Things such as carrying my groceries with ease & playing with my nephews on the floor as I age are important to me, my happiness & my overall health & well-being. Strengthening practices have the potential to move us through life efficiently, while mitigating injury as best as we can so we can do all the things in life we want to do pain-free. I also believe that physical strength can help us build mental & emotional resilience.
Kathryn Bruni-Young, a.k.a the “Queen of accessible strength,” & creator of Mindful Strength writes that, “I think strength training goes much further than just lifting weights in a gym, losing weight, leaning out, or even being fit. Strength training can help us regain confidence in our bodies.” She also writes that, “confidence in our physical abilities & our bodies is such a profound part of our lives. The type of confidence that our bodies know even before our minds; the feeling of unconscious competence.”
In my experience setting realistic movement goals not only keeps me interested & motivated to move but can also boost ones self-esteem.
For example, recently I graduated from incline push-ups on the counter-top to incline push-ups on the coffee table.
Instead of modifying the position all the time (on the knees, both are great) I’ve been progressively loading by decreasing the load until I get strong enough to do a full push up smoothly & efficiently. I’ve been working at this for a while but not obsessing over it and voila it just happened! This accomplishment made me feel so proud & powerful.
The way I approach my movement practice has changed for the better. For so many years exercise was a form of punishment. Now I approach movement more intuitively, with a sense of joy & fulfillment. Think “use it don’t abuse it, because if you don’t use it you lose it.”
Remember everyone & everyBODY is different & will respond differently to different movements, intensity, duration, recovery, interest, etc. so YOU do what is best for you & what makes you the happiest & not what other people tell you need to do. My passion for joyful movement continues to grow & I cannot wait to move with YOU!
– Yoga & Joyful Movement Coach