We are navigating uncharted territory. These weeks are challenging and we’ve had to adjust to a new way of life that is constantly surrounded by uncertainty, all of which can be stress, anxiety, and fear provoking.
As we continue to transition into this shelter-in-place lifestyle, it’s important to pay attention to our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. For example, how can we be flexible and intuitive with the way we move our bodies or the forms of exercise we engage in? What our bodies and minds need during this unique time may look quite different than it did 2 months ago, or what it will look like 2 weeks from now. Through intuitive movement, we engage in practices that reconnect us to the day to day needs of our bodies, what feels good, and what we actually enjoy doing!
What IS intuitive movement?
Authors of the book Intuitive Eating define intuitive movement in the following way;
“It’s the practice of connecting to your body and recognizing internal cues to determine what type of movement, the duration of movement, and purpose of movement that fulfills our bodies needs. It focuses on the feeling of exercise and mindfully engaging with the present moment. Intuitive movement shifts from the notion of working out for burning calories, obsession, feelings of guilt, and “wishing it was over”, to decreased stress, more energy, improved sense of well-being, empowerment, and higher quality sleep.” (Tribole & Resch, 2012)
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed I am spending WAY more time on Instagram than I have in months. With the great amount of isolated time we now have on our hands, there seems to be an increase in messages coming through on social media, fitness blogs, and workout facilities that are sharing workouts multiple times a day. It feels like there is a constant stream of posts telling me how to move my body.
The thoughts of “well maybe I should do this”, or “maybe I should do that instead”, and “I really should move today for (x) amount of time” are frequent, and sometimes overbearing. I know that when I catch myself saying/thinking “should” too much, it’s a red flag. Sometimes, “should” shows up because we have the ability to decide what movements we want to do, and what will fill our cup for our bodies needs. Other times, “should” is present in a form of comparison, devaluation, and shame of what we “should” be doing because so and so is doing this, or so and so said that. When “should” thoughts arise, notice what the meaning behind that “should” is. Is it coming from a place that is productive and helpful? Or is it a backslide into old habits that no longer serve our well-being?
Reconnect to your body, self-awareness, and intuition
If you want to reconnect to your intuitive movement needs, reflection is a great way to spark the process. Think back to the times when it felt good to move. What were you looking forward to or excited about? What was really driving that helpful, cup-filling emotion and movement? We get taken away from our bodies and movement-loving experiences when we start to dread them, or feel as though they are a punishment. In some cases, your hips and low back may feel really tight, and a loose, flow yoga targeting the opening of those areas will fill your cup. Or maybe you want to feel your heartbeat through your body with a dance routine off YouTube.
Each day may have a different calling. And, some days, the movement you feel you need is a break curled up on the couch with a blanket and a candle. That’s OK. The great thing about intuitive movement is that it is in tune with YOUR body and YOUR mind. Let it be unique.
In the case of engaging in movement, put your favorite, comfortable workout clothes on. Play some of your best jams that suit the mood of release, or pump up beats that make you want to get goin’. With whatever space you have, make it yours. Make it fun. As you step into that space, reconnect with your purpose of rejuvenating, enjoying, and alleviating mental and physical stress. Whether it’s for 5, 10, 20, or 60 minutes.
Continue to check in with your purpose and how your body feels throughout the movement of choice. Notice the thoughts that arise, the sensations from the tip of your head down through your toes, and your breath. At the end of your movement of choice, jot down 1 – 3 things you are grateful for post-movement. Gratitude is something we often skip over, and yet it’s an evidence-based practice that has been shown to enhance our well-being, connection, and joy.
As a side note, there are a few apps that enable you to move with friends. Hop on zoom or FaceTime and learn a new dance routine, or go through a flow with friends/family who share your vision of intuitive movement. While we incorporate intuitive movement into our lives, we can remain socially connected while protecting our safety with physical distance.
Written by Jennifer Simmons, CMPC
Tribole, E. & E. Resch. 2012. Intuitive Eating, 3rd edition. St. Martin’s Press, NY:NY.