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Naturally, I don’t like workouts.
Maybe because there’s the word ‘work’ in it—that makes it feel like another thing I need to tick off from my to-do list; a chore; a responsibility. However, I enjoy movement, and I feel the need to move my body every single day. To me, it’s about ‘celebrating what my body can do’ (I read this somewhere, and it really encapsulates how I feel).
There are some weeks when I am diligently roll out my yoga mat late in the afternoon or following some strength training and boxing workouts on YouTube. There are some weekends when I go into the natural parks and have a 12-kilometre hike. But there are also many days when I just feel too tired, too heavy, or too sad to do such things.
However, I am trying to make movement a part of my daily life, and one way to do so is by incorporating mindfulness practice into it.
Let’s call it mindful movement.
Listening to my body
I know when I need to move because my body tells me so. When I wake up in the morning with a stiff shoulder. When I go about my days feeling lethargic. When I have spent 2 hours in front of the computer.
I think our body communicates with us every time. The urge to stretch your arms or legs after a long working day, for instance. I realised that if I listen to my body more, and do check-ins from time to time throughout the day, I can hear when it needs me to move. It could be to just stand up and do a stretch, to walk around the house picking up dirty laundry or to do some quick jumps in place to increase my heart rate.
Finding what feels good
When I feel angry or agitated that I wish I could punch something, I will do some boxing exercises and channel my emotions through a 15-minute session of kicking and punching the air. When I feel solemn or cosy, I will go for a qi gong practice. When I feel good and energized, I’ll go for strength training. When I feel tired, I will go for a comforting and calming yin yoga session. When I feel like my head is full, I will go for a walk in the park or go swimming. When I feel sad and blue, I will put my wireless headphone on, turn on some of my favourite dance music, and do a silent disco in my room.
I find it important to find the right movement that corresponds to how I feel, my state of being, and my energy level.
When nothing feels good, I check if I am lacking nutrients. I take supplements sometimes, like B-12 vitamins and magnesium. When needed, you can check how you feel and shop for supplements to fulfil the nutrients you’re lacking.
Doing it my way
I know I’m not the kind of person who would commit to one type of exercise for a long time. I like to change things up a bit. I like to experiment. I know I like to exercise mostly alone or with the people I feel close to. I don’t find it comfortable to exercise surrounded by strangers. I don’t like it when someone shouts at me to ‘lift up my spirit’. I don’t enjoy competitiveness. I don’t like gyms with loud thumping and pumping music.
Knowing what I like or don’t like enables me to find the movement and exercise that works for me. I don’t need to be stressed out by doing exercises I don’t like in an environment that stresses me out.
Being aware of the present
I like to do my mindful movement in silence, without talking to anyone or watching something on Netflix. When I am walking outside, it’s nice to just walk and feel the ground beneath my feet, noticing the plants and wildflowers along the way, the smell of decaying woods, the chirping of the birds. When I am dancing, I just dance, feeling the beat of the music and move accordingly. When I swim, I just swim back and forth, feeling the way my body moves, that magical buoyance, the way the sunlight makes the lapping water sparkle, the faint smell of chlorine…
To me, it’s about being present with my body, with my movement, and my surroundings, to the point that I don’t really know what I’m doing anymore, I don’t think, I don’t command my body to do something… my body just moves, and my mind is still. Maybe it happens for only 2-3 minutes during the exercise—but that is enough time to feel the ‘euphoria’ of what I guess people often referred to as a “runner’s high”: when my mind is completely still and I feel like I am not moving, but I am the movement itself.
How about you? What’s your version of mindful movement?