Thursday, July 30, 2009

Movement = Bliss

Is it any wonder that diagnosis of depression has risen over time as we have become more and more sedentary?

We were not built for this.

The training starts in grade school -- sometimes earlier -- where we expect small children (the very humans that should be allowed to act most like animals) -- we expect small children to sit all day, for 8 hours.

Many schools have gotten rid of physical education, along with art -- that other full body experience.

Then we enter the workforce and the real butt-melting begins. Most of us (and this may not be reflective of the Blisschick readership!) sit in chairs and then go home and sit in chairs -- much of this in front of some sort of screen.

To combat this, maybe we take an hour or two or three of yoga a week. So many yogis don't have a home practice. If they do, it's the fifteen minute variety -- as if this will make up for all the being still and stiff and uncomfortable.

Or perhaps to combat the drudgery that is our day to day lives, we have a meditation practice -- where we sit, trying to still minds that are perhaps too stilled already, never challenged or pushed in growth-inducing ways.

Humans were built to move. We stand upright. We have great balance. Our legs evolved to get away from danger. Our muscles are long.

But we sit. And we sit some more. And we sit and wonder why we feel so badly -- or not at all.

We pontificate about the connection of mind and body, but too often, we are really talking about the mind's supremacy to body.

If mind and body are really one, there is no hierarchy and we are missing out on an important part of our spiritual lives when we sit and meditate rather than get up and move.

Some people think there is a difference between
mindfulness and meditation, but this is not correct.
The practice of mindfulness is simply to bring
awareness into each moment of our lives.
Mindful living is an art.

--Thich Nhat Hanh, Creating True Peace

Meditation is simply meant to create this daily, hourly mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment.

How are we, as humans, alive to the present moment?

Yes. Through the body. The body is the vehicle through which we are present in the now.

To be in the body is to be mindful.

But most of us live in our heads and thus the solution to our woes is Movement.

I have had the delight of meeting someone via Twitter who really gets this: Shamsi. Here's her website, including her blog.

Besides yoga, which is amazing (of course!), here are some simple ideas to start becoming Mindful in Movement:

Turn on some great music really loud and close the curtains and just GO!

Try to feel the fact that, as Ravi Singh, says you are walking in the sky. Imagine that the sky starts exactly where the earth stops. Feel your foot moving through the sky to touch down on earth.

Do something physically difficult. Do it until you feel like you can't do it anymore. NOW, at this point, focus on your large muscle groups and feel them relax into the movement. I bet you can keep going.

As you move through your day, be aware of your body breaking through space. As you get near to other humans or trees, feel the energy they emanate and how you must break through that also.

Do isolation work. For example, put on some drumming and only allow yourself to move your arms or even just your hands.

Go outside and lay down on the grass. Close your eyes. Become aware of all the smells and sounds. Start feeling your body from the skin and move inward. Now, let it all go and feel yourself float above yourself. This can take some practice.

Do the obvious: walk more rather than drive. Anything good for the planet is also good for you.

If you must drive, park as far away as you can so that you have a built in walk.

Use stairs.

Challenge your body: walk backwards in your house.

If you practice yoga, do it more. Push. Make priorities. Cut the crap out of your life so you are doing what really matters.

Do you have any suggestions?

How do you stay in your body? How do you reconnect your head to your heart?

(Photo & Text Copyright: Christine C. Reed,, 2009)


Heather Plett said...

A great reminder. And now you've made me feel guilty for skipping yoga this morning and not have been on my bike for TOO LONG.

I'm happy to say that our school division has instituted every day physical education. It's not perfect, but at least it's a start.

I was reminded of the need to move once several years ago when my daughter (a kinesthetic learner) was struggling with her spelling homework. Finally I told her to abandon her pencil and paper and just move around the house while she spelled the words. She started dancing and got every word right!

christa said...

I agree. I do my best thinking..and non-thinking/meditation while moving and/or doing menial tasks. Walking and gardening are my preferred modes of movement.
I am one of those who have to sit for their jobs, but I am trying to get up and do a few yoga poses when I feel my body compressing. Just that little bit of movement and stretching gets the blood and oxygen moving and clears my head.
Small things but big blessings!

differenceayearmakes said...

Ah, we find ourselves on the same page again. This past week I began moving daily. I didn't set myself anything too structured - just set the intention to move daily. I've taken two walks with my ipod - practiced tai chi four days (relearning) - and spent a day shuffling and rearranging books in my library (weight lifting books and lots of up and down the step ladder).

And I feel so much better! My goal is to have my body feeling balance, fluid and strong. To get that chi energy circulating.

leah creates said...

I have a SUPER suggestion! HOOPING! (aka hoop dancing) You need a real hoop for this - not one of those $3 walmart ones.

This is so fun, and such good exercise. You can get good hoops and DVDs through

Girlie-Queue said...

WHOOHOO!!!!!! :) You so totally knew I would be into this post! :) My modest recommendation? When I first started bellydancing, I was at a full time desk job. One of the things I began doing (just to get to know my music) was listen to all of my bellydance music very, very quietly at my desk. Ever so slowly I began to realize I was dancing IN my chair! It was awesome...before I realized it, all of the isolated hip movements I was doing seated made all of those same movements *amazingly* sharp by the time I finally had 'stand-up' practice time ;-) I would swivel, bump, chest lift, stomach roll, shuffle-off-to-buffalo...all from my chair! So, not only do I encourage, but CHALLENGE anyone with a desk job...Dance From Your Chair...your life may never be the same :)

Lisa said...

Great post, Christine!

Many good suggestions.

Yes, getting out of our heads is key to being FULLY present and embracing ourSelves.

I would suggest:
~Grab a partner to MOVE with you (I would NEVER have believed I could push myself to ride 20+ miles each Sunday morning if I had not been in the company of others.
~Pick a different medium than what you're used to. (Badminton, anyone?)
~Watch and mimic children.
~Get rid of the 'all or nothing' mindset. Any movement will do!!! (Just because you didn't make it to yoga, the gym, etc. doesn't mean you have to do nothing. Find something else. One winter when I was counting my steps each day, I was literally marching in place during most of the SuperBowl just to get my steps in that day :-)

As usual, thanks for the ideas and encouragement!

Grace said...

Loved this post.

Two more things you can do to move with mindfulness: gardening and housework (it's got to get done anyway!)

Linda-Sama said...

" be aware of your body breaking through space."

as a yoga teacher I see on a daily basis how totally disconnected people are from their bodies, and I think that disconnection is getting worse.

I teach yoga at a jr. college, the age range is 18-23, and you would be amazed at the condition of these young bodies. my students are amazed at my age and how I move!

what you're talking about is proprioception (athletes and dancers have it, but you don't need to be one of those to have it) and if I had a $1 for the lack of body awareness in my students, I could open up my own studio. I still have long time students (5+ years) who still watch my every move when I'd like them to close their eyes and just FEEL!

Carolyn said...

Oh my goodness, all of this is so very very true. Merci for that because I definitely need to be reminded to do little things like park farther away.

karmacoy said...

I so needed this post today Christine, Thank you!

Swimming, don't forget swimming!! Swimming is part of this chick's bliss for sure, not only for the physical benifits but the pure sensual pleasure of feeling my body move through water and the olfactory gratification and comfort swimming produces for me. I grew up swimming in Ontario's lakes and rivers and that smell holds good memories!

(creativeoasiscoach) said...

My first visit to your blog via twitter - I love your message! A nice reminder to turn on some music and dance around the kitchen tonight as I make a healthy dinner!

Marisa said...

I totally agree with everything you said here and I loved it. I have been reading "Wherever You Go There You Are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn on Mindfulness Meditation in an attempt to become more aware in my daily life but I find your post says it so much better...perhaps I won't finish reading it, but follow you instead. I have tried sitting quietly to meditate but find it very hard to quiet my monkey mind. It is much easier to focus on "being" while walking or gardening etc. Being still too long tends to make me feel more "down"...perhaps that's why sleeping in doesn't agree with me and I feel so much better getting up early.

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

I do agree nature remedies the weary soul ~ often what's got me out of the house on very "down" days is my commitment to project 365 ... it's sometimes hard to overcome the inertia, but once i get with my camera, my photographer's eye reminds me of the beauty all around me, and this lifts me a little.

I am left wondering tho' about movement and depression ~ did the chicken or the egg come first? perhaps inertia, or lack of movement in some ways is a manifestation of depression.

After nursing for many years, I found I could not longer do a job that involved sitting at a desk for extended periods of time. That sort of forced stillness produced unpleasant anxiety, and made me feel like someone closed the cage door on me. I am one that must always have the cage door open in life.

Just for the record, i get and development many of my creative ideas whilst in motion ~ particularly walking outside. Motions seems to trigger some things.

Perhaps this next thought may make me more unpopular than i already am, but i suspect that with children, an overabundance of 'stuff' may be a depressive factor. I think sometimes parents are drowning their kids with stuff. Also today's world does not lend itself to exercising the imagination, which does lift the spirit. I suppose it's hard to keep the imagination alive when Nintendo or the like is one's constant companion.

svasti said...

I used to perform as a semi-professional bellydancer, and then I also taught classes for a while.

A theory I developed as a result of performing, which usually included a fair bit of audience participation, was how little people inhabit their bodies.

Most people live in the head and the groin. Some also live in the heart. But the abdomen region is usually where people have no connection.

The don't move from there - you can see it as people walk or dance. They can't sense what's happening in that part of the body either, and I think that's why people eat too much and/or the wrong things.

Dance and yoga, are of course, excellent ways to re-connect with all parts of your body. Especially belly dancing, since many of the isolations work on the abdomen region. Which is why I liked teaching men and women to do it, not just the gals!