Intuitive Movement

Sapna Doshi, Ph.D. - 12th Jan 2023

It's true we all need to move our  bodies in some capacity. It's good for us and there's tons of health benefits from moving our  bodies. We also live pretty sedentary lives with often sedentary 9-5 jobs. And so we do sometimes need to be conscious of fitting movement into our lives.

However, the problem I often see when people come in to see us at the practice is that there's so much emphasis on exercise regiments that result in weight loss and achieving a certain "look." We're missing the point of what our bodies really need from us if that's what we're focusing on all the time. Our bodies just want to be cared for and given some attention. But instead, too often, people are whipping it into shape and punishing it with injuries because of working out excessively or too aggressively. And sometimes the opposite happens where people are avoiding their bodies all together. The reasons people might do this include feeling discomfort in experiencing the body they're in, feeling shame around their body, feeling fear of others commenting on their body in public places, feeling intimidated by the idea of moving their bodies, and avoiding potential disappointment in not being where they were previously with movement.

I can understand it all, as a therapist. The function of clients' avoidance or excessive exercise always makes sense to me. It's serving to protect a client from something emotionally difficult. Avoidance helps prevent feeling uncomfortable emotions and excessive exercise often serves to avoid emotion as well and regain a sense of control over something. But the end result is that the body suffers. So no matter the client I'm working with, I'm always encouraging finding a middle ground in a way that honors our bodies and heals our bodies. And in that process I enjoy thinking about intuitive movement. Exercise doesn't have to be 60 minutes of running or 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training, or a HIIT class. I prefer to think about exercise as movement because it has a gentler connotation.

Here are some questions I like to ask myself when I think about intuitive movement:

What do you feel like doing? What do you have energy to do? What sounds fun? What kind of mood are you in and what kind of movement matches that? What could movement do for you today?

For me, my absolutely favorite form of movement is walking while exploring a new city, town, or country! On some days when the weather is nice, I feel like I just want to walk and enjoy a stroll around my neighborhood. There are other days I can feel my body being super achy and tense so I crave yoga. This morning I had a lot of energy and so I felt energized for a run and the weather was just perfect for it! Running in 90 degree weather? No thanks. 75 degrees? Yes! Some days I really want to do strength training because I love it and it makes me feel strong. Get me on a tennis court, and I'll be ready just about any day of the week, any time! Recently I've taken up golfing. Another fun form of movement that also challenges my mind. I love it!

Ask yourself what would be fun, what you're in the mood for, and don't set any all-or-nothing expectations for the experience, such as requiring yourself to complete 60 minutes or it wasn't enough and why bother then. The goal is to consistently listen to your body, honor your body, heal your body in gentle ways, and give it the love and attention it deserves.

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