Movement, stretch, change, practice, awareness
Seven ways to change your life: Part Six - Movement
Paula Brown | 15 August 2022
Ever noticed how when you eat or drink a favourite food or tipple, how your mood changes? Sometimes immediately or within hours. You may notice (often in hindsight) that your outlook narrows and your perspective becomes a little less rosy? Now this: have you noticed, when you exercise or perhaps, stretch, dance or walk, how your body feels? Have you noticed how a positive mood and general sense of well-being arises? Of course you have! This is because:
Your body affects your mind and your mind affects your body.
About 300 years ago, the medical world regarded the body and mind as a single entity. Then came the 17th century when the Western world began to look at the two as separate entities. Hop skip and a jump to the 20th century and research again demonstrates these complex links between body and mind. The evidence is there, and if we want to lift our moods, change our behaviours or put on those rose-tinted lenses, then now is the time to approach your health and well-being from both perspectives. Mind and body.
This week we introduce our sixth practice, Movement – one that plays an integral role in both, our behaviours, and our thinking. So here it is. Let's talk about movement as it is one of the most fundamental components to creating change in our lives.
“[The body is] a marvelous machine, a chemical laboratory, a powerhouse. Every movement, voluntary or involuntary, is full of secrets and marvels.”
This one’s no surprise. Movement is one of the most basic functions of the human body. When we think of movement, we often think of sports, going to the gym, or cardio exercise like running or dancing. Whilst these are valid for many people, the reality is that movement is so much more than just that. Movement could mean playing with your children, cleaning the house, gardening, dancing, cooking, dancing while you cook, caring for a loved one (we know how intense this too can be).
The type of movement that we like to work with as part of one’s journey of personal growth and self-discovery, is even simpler, more gentle, and often, transformational. It's the type of movement we advocate for first thing in the morning: awakening your body (and mind) through gentle yogic stretching. Why transformational, you may ask? This is because this type of stretching usually engages all parts of us; our mind, our body, and our heart and soul. It characterises the direct translation of the word ‘Yoga’, which means to yoke – to bring together into the present moment, our whole selves. In these moments of being one with our body, all else falls away – if only for that moment. A truly magical experience.
Hmmm, a bit deep. If you’ve been there, you’ll know. If not, then we’re excited for you to experience this.
Early morning yogic or gentle stretching feels good throughout your entire body. This is because during the night you reach REM (rapid eye-movement), the stage of your night’s sleep where your muscles literally become paralyzed – its called atonia and explains many of the aches and pains we feel when we wake up in the mornings. When awakening and reactivating your muscles, the following occurs:
If you’ve not done this before, take a moment to imagine beginning each day with a sense of optimism and lightness and then you will know why we encourage this type of movement upon awakening.
But there’s more. A morning stretching routine not only boosts your energy levels, it helps release anxiety and tension which, if you suffer from anxiety or depression, you’ll know, is often more pronounced in the mornings.
How to do this:
Access reputable resources that serve your body type, your personality and level of flexibility and fitness or, better still, get yourself a personal trainer to show you what to do. You could also join our morning sessions, Mondays to Thursdays (more on this on our website www.equinoxjourney.com) or make your way to some pilates or yoga classes.
When stretching, we encourage you to hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds to allow your muscles the time that they need to adequately stretch. If you notice an area that’s really holding onto tension, hold the position longer, breathe into it and imagine in each exhale that you’re able to release that tension with your breath. Tara Brach, author, psychologist and meditation teacher, encourages her students to, when they find tension in their bodies, on the exhale, to whisper softly: letting go, letting go….
And so your day has begun. There are many other forms of movement or physical activity – gentle yogic stretching does not replace your cardio workout, rather consider it as a self-care, body release, endorphin-compelling, healthy way to start your day. After 10 – 30 minutes of this stretching, you’re ready to move on to other exercises like walking, running, cold water swimming, yoga, nature walks, surfing – whatever your choice of exercise is.
The Friends of Movement: Breath, Centering, walking, nature, music.
Benefits of Movement: Improves circulation, and removes tension and stress. It offers a sharper, more focused mind, weight loss and maintenance, mood enhancers (endorphins), better sleep, flexibility, and healthy muscles, and bones. (This is pretty much a never-ending list!)
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