This post is about exercise, but it is not what you think—or at least I do not think it is. I often have a love-hate relationship with exercise. On the one hand, I love how exercise makes me feel. I really like dancing—hoop dance, free-style dance and yoga-inspired dance. I am by no means a great dancer, but when I really get into the flow of dance, I feel graceful, exhilarated, and strong. On the other hand, I unfortunately often a have bad attitude about exercise. I think a lot of us do, and it is no wonder. There is a lot of cultural pressure, especially for women, to use exercise to make ourselves smaller—to shrink ourselves, it seems. In this mindset, exercise becomes a punishment for living or for enjoying life too much. When I have this mindset about exercise, it is pretty easy for me to figure out a lot of reasons to avoid it.
Lately, however, I have been thinking about exercise as a way to make ourselves bigger, not smaller. The other day I was exercising/dancing, but I was doing it in a rather perfunctory manner (which is a very sad way to dance). Partway through I suddenly decided for some reason to concentrate on each action, considering how it made me feel. I realized I felt strong, graceful, open-hearted, joyful, fluid, and resilient. I enjoyed all of these feelings. I felt connected to life and powerful. Suddenly I realized, “Oh that is why I exercise!” The purpose of movement and exercise is to make us bigger, not smaller. It is to give us a bigger heart, a bigger attitude, a bigger spirit, open to the world and to possibilities. When looked at this way, exercise is a generous gift, rather than a punishing chore we must do three to five times a week.
So, move today in some way. You can dance, you can run, you can juggle, you can hula hoop, you can swim, you can do cross-fit. Whatever you do, rather than gritting your teeth and trying to get through exercise, think about the movements and the big-hearted feelings they generate. Own each of these feelings and think about how they connect you in a grander, more expansive way with life. Use exercise to enlarge your heart and mind and spirit. We need more of you, not less of you.