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Making every movement count

The joy of everyday conscious movement: How to make every movement count

When you think about healthy exercise and activity, you probably think of things like going to a gym, going dancing, doing a form of martial art, cycling or jogging – all wonderful ways of keeping us fit and active. But do you ever think about all the little movements that you make on a daily basis, and how they affect the overall balance of body and mind?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing with the idea of ‘conscious everyday movement’. We move all of the time, and I think it’s important to make the most of every movement. Do you ever think about your walk when you go to pick up the milk? All the bending and stretching that goes on when you’re tidying the house? Every movement is important and helpful to the balance of your body, so today I want to share with you a few of my thoughts on conscious movement.

Moving house means moving body

We recently moved house, and the move gave me a great selection of conscious everyday movements to work with. Things like:

  • Bending down to pack boxes
  • Rotating to pick up items to go in boxes
  • More bending to pick up items
  • Stretching to get items off shelves
  • Wandering from room to room in a dazed state wondering what to pack next
  • Walking out of a room having forgotten what I went in for

Even once we’d moved home, the conscious movements kept on coming. The tireless activity involved in moving and shuffling about the trunk, the bean bag, the comfy chair, the side tables, the bookcase (ok, I didn’t do that one, it’s REALLY heavy). Where do they look best? The process of adjusting and de-cluttering takes days.

Just when I think it’s all sorted, my new standing desk arrives. I confidently refuse the delivery guy’s offer of help to lift it up to our flat. Oh boy, it’s heavy. Five minutes later I stand triumphant at the bottom of our flat, pulling the box apart so that I can break it down into manageable bits for the rest of the journey. Every step climbed and piece of furniture dragged is another opportunity for some weight training. I eventually make it to the lounge, victorious!

Let the desk-building commence: Arrange the parts (walking bending, rotating), arrange the tools (more bending and rotating), screw desk legs into the middle bars first (sitting, rotating), rotate and lunge to other leg, screw into other side of middle bars, look up under the shelves to get the screws in, stand and back away to stare at the miracle before me. You get the idea?

Conscious everyday movement: Give it a try

So perhaps you’re not moving house, or buying DIY furniture, but the potential for conscious everyday movement is everywhere.  For example, as you head away from your desk for your lunch break, feel the joy of the body uncoiling from its desk bound position. The choices of movement towards lunch are limitless:

-A joyful skippy walk (I quite like to play with this one when I’m feeling a little down)

-A slow mindful amble

-A brisk cardio boost

-An angry ‘let off steam’ march

-A sad meander (interesting to experiment even when feeling jolly, just don’t let it get you down)

Conscious everyday movement and the breath

Breathing is so easily forgotten amongst the plethora of exciting activities we undertake during our day. But it’s one of the most important things we do: it keeps us alive, it keeps our body balanced and it keeps our digestive system working comfortably, among other things. So check it out!

Make sure you let your body move with your breath. Your belly wants, no, needs, to bulge out when you breathe in! Otherwise what happens to all of the organs that need space as your diaphragm comes down? Here’s a short video that explains it very well.

 

Experimenting with conscious everyday movement has made me more mindful, and grateful for simple movement. Our small movements are a big deal – we make them all the time.  So pay attention throughout your day, and make sure you take the time to notice and consciously experience them. It’ll be well worth it, I promise!

 

 

 

You don’t have to be a pretzel

One of the most common things I hear when I or someone else mentions yoga is ‘I would take yoga classes but I’m not very flexible’. I understand that feeling. I’ve never been a pretzel myself and I’ve spent many a class wondering how I could get to look like my neighbouring yogini. You know, the one that has their foot around their neck. How??!!??!

Whilst it is very nice for that person to have that range of motion it is also very nice for me to get my leg nowhere NEAR my head. As long as we are working with the correct alignment for our bodies we are getting the same amount of benefit. Realising this liberated my practise.

It can be daunting to start yoga especially when so many photos show people in contorted pretzel positions or balancing on one hand or doing a back bend whilst managing to read the newspaper (Ok, I’m exaggerating, but you know what I mean). Whilst I agree that yoga can be an amazing place to challenge yourself and reach for new goals, more importantly, it is a place where we can start observing how things are and explore from there.

Yoga provides a place to acknowledge what is, to learn how we move in to and through various movements. It is not just about the end shape that we create. It is not a place to get hung up on the fact that we may not be able to reach our toes or that we may need the use of a block to be seated comfortably. Accepting our starting point is the only way to be able to continue to change in the practise in a healthy way. If we are not truthful about where that starting place is then we can end up contorting our bodies in to shapes that have no benefit and can potentially be harmful.

Yoga is about so much more than flexibility. Over time, with a consistent practise, it is likely that your body will become more supple. You will feel new space open up. But let this be a gentle, healthy journey. Be kind to yourself. Let curiosity, compassion and patience be your guide.

If you are thinking of starting yoga or perhaps you tried once and it was too hard, I would recommend getting out there and trying different teachers and styles. You’ll know when you’ve found the practise that is right for your body. Over time it will change. These days there are many beginners yoga courses which are usually specifically designed to guide you through various postures and stages of postures over many months. If you’re new to yoga perhaps one of those courses would be a good place to start.

Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious

 

I’ll just…and THEN I’ll get on my mat.

I’ll just do the washing up, and THEN I’ll get on my mat.

Does this sounds familiar?

I found myself having these types of thoughts as I stood before my computer yesterday morning. The dialogue went something like this ‘I’ll get in to savasana in a minute, I’ll just check Facebook first, ooh the washing, I’ll just fold that up and put it away and then I’ll definitely get on the mat. I really should clean that corner of the room, I feel a bit disorganised when it’s untidy. I haven’t updated my yoga page for ages and I suddenly have the impulse to do that right now!’

GET ON YOUR MAT!! I eventually scream at myself. It does the trick, breaking through all of the bollocks (I’m sorry but it was) that I had set up before it. Down came the wall of denial and down went my body to lie in a delicious knees bent savasana. And I chuckle to myself. Already I feel clearer than just a moment before, my mind slows, the inner dialogue quietens down, my breath deepens and my spine starts to yawn itself in to comfort. Now why was that so hard?

Some days it’s so easy to get on the mat and other days I need to scream myself there. It’s always worth it. Even when I put up every block I can think of, when I do eventually sink on to the mat and rise up some time later I always feel refreshed and centred. Every time this ‘blocking’ happens I’m reminded that the hardest part is getting on the mat! And that regardless of the length of my practise it is always one of the best things I can do for myself each day. So the screaming is an act of kindness really.

An important part of the practise for me is learning to be kind and compassionate with myself. When I can show kindness to myself I am always more able to show kindness to others. When I judge and admonish myself I am more likely to be more critical of others. Being kind and compassionate to others helps send that lovely positive feeling out to more and more people. It’s maths really.

I’m not saying it’s easy or that I get it right all the time. It takes practise and conscious effort until slowly you feel the behaviours becoming a truth rather than something you need to learn.

Today I didn’t need to scream myself to the mat. Today I knew it was just somewhere I wanted to and needed to be.