As a physiotherapist, I have many conversations about movement. I have decided that joyful movement is a way of approaching exercise or physical activity in a beautiful way. To explain exactly what I think joyful movement is, I have broken it down into the following 6 principles that joyful movement encompasses:
Focuses on Happiness
Encourages you to be Open-Minded
Creates Flexibility around Choice
Taps into your Intuition
Helps you Celebrate your Body!
Supports your Purpose
Let’s break down each principle to get a better understanding.
1. Focuses on Happiness
Joyful movement should bring you joy. Yep, movement that really makes you happy! We all like different types of movement and you get to define what is pleasurable for you. You might find team sports bring you joy by sharing a sense of community and comradery. Or, perhaps the solitude of a lone wolf activity makes you happy, like swimming. It could be hiking or going for a run on your own because you find that quiet alone time resets your mood. Or maybe you love walking with a friend or going to yoga class with someone. Often sharing an activity with someone keeps you committed and helps you stay connected with the ones you love. Also, different types of movement or even different speeds of movement feel good to some and not to others. Going downhill skiing or water skiing may be too fast for some, yet golf might feel too slow. Movement of all forms counts; you just have to pick the movement that sparks joy in YOU!
2. Encourages you to be Open-Minded
Joyful movement embraces being open minded because there isn’t any right or wrong, there isn’t even a should or shouldn’t. It’s about being open minded and flexible in your thoughts around movement. Joyful movement embraces all types of movement and all levels of ability. You just follow what feels right to you and your body. No judgment! And, when you seek joy and stay open minded you may notice that what you love to do today is much different than it was five years ago. It’s ok for your preferences to change, even your body changes over time. You need to try and stay open minded and accept these changes with flexibility and ease.
3. Creates Flexibility around Choice
Engaging or not engaging in movement is ultimately your choice. You get to listen to your body and your mind and make the choice of how and when you want to move. We often hear people say I have to exercise, as if they are just listing another chore on their to-do list. Movement should be fun! It should not be viewed as a chore and definitely not a punishment for what you ate that day. If you don’t feel well, choose rest. If you’re burnt out, choose rest. If you’re bored with your exercise routine, switch it up! You can be flexible in your choice. And if you haven’t made the choice to move your body in a long time – you owe it to yourself to find out why. What’s the root cause? If it’s pain, seek help from a physiotherapist. If it’s depression, seek help from a counselor. If you are overwhelmed on where to start and what to do, find a personal trainer for support. We all deserve to feel well enough in our bodies to know we can move the way we want to!
4. Taps into your Intuition
It is very important to listen to your body when it comes to exercise. As a physiotherapist, I see both sides of the coin. I see the side effects of not listening to your body and the benefits of listening to your body on a regular basis. One way to strengthen your intuition is to start listening and checking in with your body more often. You can do this by listening before you move your body. For example, check in, notice any areas of stiffness or discomfort. Start slow. Before you go for a run, notice how you feel, what’s your energy like? Do you think you need to start with walking or can you dive into a jog? Do you have any aches or pains? Is the route you picked match how you feel?
Once you are into your activity, you need to check in and listen to your body again. What pace feels good? Any signals from your body? Think about why you might be getting those signals, take a mental note and think of how you can follow-up. For example during a walk if the back of your leg started hurting you could stop and give them a gentle stretch. Maybe you need to change your pace or change your original route to avoid the big hill. On the flip side, when you check in with your body and you feel amazing, maybe you can speed up your pace, and/or choose that big hill to go up! Modifications based on how you feel helps you gain trust in your body.
And the last step could be checking in after your joyful movement. How do you feel right after? How about the next day? Did you push it too hard and need a rest day in between? For example, after a run perhaps you need to get overboard and soak in the calm ocean. Or give yourself a rub down with magnesium lotion. Maybe you’re nursing an injury and you need to apply ice after your movement to slow down the inflammation.
Having a sense of intuition or understanding in your body is very empowering. This is something that I think comes more naturally to some people compared to others. I have the best example of who I think lacks intuition when it comes to movement or lack thereof.
This person is what I call a Weekend Warrior!
Let me explain, and perhaps you are a weekend warrior, or you know someone who is. My definition of weekend warrior is a person who has a relatively sedentary lifestyle, especially during the week, they are often in an office profession that requires long hours on the computer. THEN… when the weekend hits, the projects need doing, the fun needs to be had and they are ALL IN! Mark my word, they will even volunteer to help you, their best buddy, move house. They will spend all day lifting boxes, carrying couches and climbing up and down the stairs. The adrenaline or perhaps a few ‘energy’ drinks keep them at it. They keep at it even when the discomfort in their back kicks in, they just ignore it. The Weekend Warrior often ignores their body. They ignore those subtle yet important signals from their body during the week that are asking them, begging them, to get up from the office chair. Then they ignore their body when it says slow down on the weekend. And guess what? They often complain about their body after they hurt themselves or when they have a lingering chronic pain.
The Weekend Warrior is not thinking about injury prevention or movement in the long run. Part of injury prevention and recovery is building a trusting relationship with your body. This can happen through embracing the principles of joyful movement like checking in with your body throughout the movement and listening to your intuition.
5. Celebrate your Body
How amazing are our bodies? I am still blown away on a daily basis on what people’s bodies are capable of, it is truly remarkable. We collectively celebrate what our bodies can do, but do we celebrate individually? For example, we celebrate sport. We watch the Olympics and we are all in awe of the athletes’ performances. We can see runners fly over the track beating world records and yet making it look so effortless as they cross the finish line. We celebrate the strength of our athletes, their agility, perseverance and dedication.
But, do you celebrate how powerful you are? When’s the last time you pat yourself on the back for carrying two heavy bags of groceries up the stairs into your house, straight to your kitchen without stopping? When was the last time you even tested how powerful you are. How about your endurance? How about your balance?
All of our bodies are unique and wonderful in so many ways. It’s our job to tap into our unique abilities and celebrate them. Celebrating your body means finding what you love to do and what your body feels good doing. We often celebrate the milestones of children as they grow up, watching them move from crawling up to standing and eventually running. Have you hit any new milestones lately? You will be amazed at what happens when you set a few targets and see what your body can really do. Setting a movement goal and reaching that goal will give you lots to celebrate! You deserve the win!
6. Supports your Purpose
Purpose can be a great catalyst for joyful movement. What do I mean by that? I mean what is your WHY? Why do you want to move? Why have you chosen that activity? Tapping into your WHY can help you visualize the movement you wish to have in your day, your week or even your year! Your why can help you set realistic goals that have true purpose in your life.
I often have conversations with my clients and when we really dig deep and find their purpose, they use that to persevere towards something they want to accomplish. For example, after a knee replacement my client said, “I want to bend my knee more.” “But why,” I replied. She said “I want to get down to the floor.” I then asked, “Why is that:?” With a big smile she replied, “To play with my grandson and his toy cars.” Now that is purposeful movement right there!
For this to happen, she knows she needs to work on her knee range of motion, but bending her knee more is not the end goal. Her end goal is purposeful, joyful movement on the floor with her grandson. How lovely is that!
Everyone’s purpose is different, you just need to tap into yours and watch how much easier it is to move your body! When you focus on your purpose, you often move more and practice it more consistently. For example, if your purpose is to run the Bermuda Day half marathon, then you start training early so you can accomplish your goal and enjoy your run that day!
Your purpose doesn’t have to be directed to a specific goal, like hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, it can also simply be to have fun, or boost your energy and confidence. Perhaps it’s to spend quality time with someone special.
When embracing joyful movement, you want to find a purpose that pulls you out of bed or off that couch. It may be a long term goal or a short term goal, whatever it is, if you tap into your purpose you will find consistent movement more enjoyable in the long run.
Ready to add Joyful Movement to your routine?
As a recap, Joyful Movement embraces the following principles:
Focuses on Happiness, Encourages you to be Open-Minded, Creates Flexibility around Choice, Taps into your Intuition, Helps you Celebrate your Body and Supports your Purpose!
I would like you to grab your journal or a piece of paper and write down three activities that support joyful movement in your life. Ideally, I want you to think of one activity you can do on a daily basis, one activity you can do weekly and one activity you can do monthly. Once you write down those activities, those joyful movements, take a minute to add them to your calendar.
Your calendar should reflect your priorities, and we can all agree that joyful movement is a priority!
Beth Hollis | BHSc., MPT
Co-Founder, Physiotherapist | firstname.lastname@example.org