Intuitive movement is so far from the common experience for most people these days. “Exercise” is the word most of us use to define our body’s movement. This is, unfortunately, fused with “dieting” as if it is one word. “DietAndExercise” comes with pressure, shoulds, unwritten contracts, endless increases in time/distance/endurance, is fear-based, guilt-ridden, competitive and all-or-nothing. Either you are dieting and exercising or you are not; being “good” or “bad”. This leads so many people to the internal conflict of compliance and defiance and months of overeating and sedentary stretches followed by unrealistic exercising and dieting attempts.
HAES (Health at Every Size) supports increasing social, pleasure-based movement for enjoyment and enhanced quality of life (Joh Robison). Intuitive movement is like intuitive eating and helpful in similar ways. It is flexible and variable depending on your energy level, daily schedule, mood, weather conditions, time of day and physical condition. Intuitive movement allows for the start of an activity that you enjoy and an ending of that time when your body calls for it. Not to push on out of guilt for eating, fear of death/disease, sense of failure, competition or just a lack of satisfaction for not doing it “right”. Intuitive movement is motivated by a desire to feel good in your body and enhance our health. Moving feels good when we pay attention to that and not the old messages in our heads. It is about having fun and learning what our bodies can do and how they change when we continue to move them, leading to self-appreciation. It’s about being present and noticing how the movement feels at the time. Pushing it a little because you want to see how that feels. Laughing and connecting with others (some of the time) or being alone with the self in a kind way are extraordinary benefits.
If you are new to this way of moving or would like to give it a try, keep your focus on how moving is benefitting you as a stand-alone experience versus telling yourself that you aren’t getting anything from it if you aren’t doing this long enough or frequently enough to benefit. Experiment with lots of different ways to move so you can find something you like. Remember that any movement enhances your overall health, improves mood, strengthens muscles, builds stamina and improves sleep indepent of your body weight. Try to catch old messages about exercise that put unnecessary pressure on you and thwart your attempts. Ask yourself if you feel like moving in that moment and try to match your activity with what you were wanting. Be willing to stop and start something else then or at another time. Remember back to when you were a kid and you called it “playing”; try to recreate that feeling or some element of an activity you loved earlier in your life. Make a list of the lies you tell yourself about exercise that pressure you so you can challenge them when they reappear. Glenn A. Gaesser, in his book Big Fat Lies tells readers that if you are fairly sedentary and you begin a moderate amount of enjoyable movement, your health and well-being is greatly affected and that athletic training is not needed at all to appreciate the health benefits of physical activity. If you would like to experiment with a moving meditation, try this for inspiration
We are made to move; it is a natural state and we deserve all the wonderful benefits it has to offer. If we are willing to remove all the pressure and reactivity from this, it will more dramatically gift us and become more consistently a part of our lives.