For most of my life I didn’t get excited about exercising. Maybe it was the strident-sounding words associated with it: fitness, reps, burn, Stairmaster. Participating in team sports also didn’t appeal, although I could certainly appreciate the lessons they offered in winning, losing and camaraderie. My introduction to the world of fitness came from experiencing joy and wisdom from moving energetically. That’s when exercise became mine! A spiritual perspective may help you get moving, too. Here are simple ways to bring motion to your spiritual practice. Whether it’s a ramble in the woods or navigating the city sidewalks, walking connects movement with the internal and external world. While a walk in the park allows me to sustain a pace I like, de-stress and focus internally, walking in Times Square teaches different lessons. On more crowded streets, I get practice in being patient, standing my ground and yielding. Jumping, running and dancing can all lead to a wonderful state of transcendence. Even small amounts of exuberant movement can have huge benefits. On busy days my spiritual practice is 10 minutes of dancing. Other times, I like to mix it up and vary intervals of vigorous movement with more moderate movement including strength training. I use music to guide and motivate me. I may jump for one song, do weights for the next and alternate for anywhere from two to 15 songs. You can also vary vigorous movement—jumping jacks, running in place—with less intense moves such as lunges and dancing. Experiment and explore to find the right balance of energies and songs that work for you. I especially love the clarity and grounding I feel after sessions when I’ve moved in a variety of tempos. So I like to finish off my exuberant moving sessions with yoga or meditation, and some time on the foam roller. My Yoga Online has classes that I turn to all the time to round out each practice. If you are going to do vigorous movement you will want to warm up your joints first and do a cool down stretch afterwards (unless you are doing yoga, too). Props such as a jump rope, hula hoop, foam roller, elastic bands and free weights can add to your experiences, but aren’t absolutely necessary. It’s OK to keep it simple. We are born to move and play. Follow your intuition and, by all means, if you are concerned about your health consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program. You may also want to keep a journal of your activities and how you feel before and after as a way to mark your journey and deepen your practice. If you are someone who “should” exercise but don’t feel motivated, consider that exercise is a moving expression of your spiritual self. The trick is staying present, finding what works for you, and recognizing that each day may be different. Moving our bodies dynamically can be as enlightening as a sitting meditation. Varying motion and stillness in a single session is inspiring and beneficial.
Merryl Reichbach, LMSW, ACE, MA She is a Clinical Social Worker and art therapist with children, teens and their families. She also has a private practice as a certified holistic health counselor (graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition) ACE Certified Personal Trainer and loves integrating art, yoga, writing and dance into her life and her work.