We are doing a lot of fun and useful exploration in my Every BODY Can Exercise group right now. Quite a bit of it focuses on the awesome benefits that come from regular physical activity. One particular benefit that comes from being more active is that we come to inhabit our entire body more fully. Many of us who are sedentary (especially if we have low self esteem about our bodies) come to live a life that exists primarily from the neck up. We live mostly in our heads and become “cut off” from the physical sensations that are found from the neck down. We shy away from full length mirrors. We look at ourselves as others define us–as merely a pretty face. Exercise forces us to reconnect with sensations in the rest of our bodies. We need to use our kinesthetic awareness to know where we are in space, whether or not we are doing the movements or the choreography or the activities correctly. We need to inhabit our bodies in a way that allows us to keep our balance and live in the moment.
Yet, even though physical activity reconnects us with our entire bodies, it is by no means exclusively a “below the neck” experience. We absolutely need to engage our minds as we exercise. We need to constantly assess whether or not the movement is pleasurable and safe. We need to understand our pain levels and whether they represent simple resistance that will dissipate once we overcome the initial impedance caused by inertia or they represent a significant problem in form or substance likely to lead to acute injuries down the road.
One issue that I see quite commonly in beginning or returning exercisers is that a release of tension held in the body, and reconnection with sensation in the body leads to a rush of emotions as well. Even just a few minutes of movement is often enough to leave the beginning exerciser awash in tears. There are many reasons for this. But I think one of the strongest reasons is that our bodies are meant to be experienced in their entirety. Reconnecting the head and the heart and the rest of the body and reestablishing communication among all the parts leads to a dramatic shift in the effectiveness of both mind and body. There is an electric current that runs through bodies and heads that are well connected and getting along nicely. This current can fuel all kinds of thoughts and activities. But this current can also be quite jarring when it is first experienced. And it seems, that often this current can vibrate some of our emotions loose and leave us reeling.
This is why I think it is so important to approach physical activity in a way that integrates body, mind and soul. Resistance to exercise can come from any of these places. Whether its a misunderstanding about what exercise means or a fear deep in our bellies that warns us that exercise may hurt or cause our hearts to beat too quickly or cause others to say cruel things to us–whether it’s a feeling of unworthiness that makes us loathe to take the time to care for ourselves or a lack of organization that keeps us from integrating exercise into our lives, it’s important to remember that many barriers to exercise are not physical. In fact physical activity involves a whole lot more than that.
It involves our whole minds, our whole hearts and our whole bodies. Not only all of these things, but each of these things in their completeness.
Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)