Keep It Moving!
Knowing full well the importance of keeping my body moving, stretching, flexing during my recent marathon of sitting-watching 26 films in an 11-day film festival [see Shifting Perspectives], I intentionally developed a routine of yoga movements I could quietly do standing in line or sitting in the theater. And one 20-minute intermission at a concert in the midst of that marathon week brought such joy.
I was dutifully doing my exercise of standing up from sitting in a chair, 10 times without using arms or hands. An older woman using a cane walked by, stopped to talk, then let me know she was 100 years old! I said I was doing these exercises so I could still come to the symphony when I was 100, and she encouraged me, “You’ll get there.” Another woman came over and asked if I had seen her doing her hip flexors at the balcony railing. I hadn’t, but I joined her. Another woman joined us, saying she was going to share what she was witnessing with her trainer. Then she and I did the ankle rolls I had learned from my personal trainer that morning. The entire 20-minute intermission was warm, joyful connection with plenty of laughter, good for body and soul.
We do move our bodies, naturally, all the time. And when we bring intention and conscious awareness to the benefit of those movements, we greatly enhance the effect on body as well as our sense of self for caring about the self.
From the Lifestyle Choices for Brain Care tools I will be teaching in the Bouncing Back: The Neuroscience of Resilience and Well-Being workshop I will be teaching at Esalen November 8-10, 2019:
Life Is a Gym
There is a poster in my doctor’s office of a woman walking down the sidewalk carrying two bags of groceries. The headline on the poster is “Life is a Gym.” Even small movements in the body, when we are paying attention to them, count.
Pay attention to the movements necessary to make the bed, do the dishes, fold the laundry, pick up the kids’ toys, take out the garbage, weed the garden, mow the lawn, wash the car. Notice the stretching, the bending, the flexing. Notice the changes in sensation, in balance, in energy. Maybe not aerobic. Maybe not 30 minutes. But study after study shows that paying mindful attention to our movements brings extra benefit to the brain; the focused attention keeps the brain awake and engaged, giving it a workout, too. It’s all (mindful) movement, and it all counts.
Four minute better than nothing workout –
[Adapted from Healthy Brain, Happy Life: A Personal Program to Activate Your Brain and Do Everything Better by Wendu Suzuki, PhD]
Try to make these fun exercises part of your daily routine, new habits that you don’t even have to think about so much anymore:
1. Walk up and down the stairs to your favorite upbeat song for four minutes. (I do that at my office regularly, simply going up and down the one flight of stairs many times.)
2. Do a combination of desk push-ups and squats at work. (More fun when I team up with my office mate.)
3. While you are brushing your teeth, do a rotation of deep knee squats and side bends. (I really do this one; it’s so easy and makes the teeth brushing more fun, too.)
4. Play a four-minute game of tag with your kids, or borrow a friend’s kids to play tag with. (The laughter is terrific for your well-being, too.)
5. Set a timer for four minutes and clean up as much of your home or office as you can as fast as you can. Try cleaning the bathtub or do some speed vacuuming or mopping; that can really work up a sweat and it will last only four minutes! (I can testify; vacuuming is my task of choice because I can see the immediate results so easily.)
Part of the effectiveness of choicefully moving the body is that we develop a sense of our selves as more engaged in our well-being; we see ourselves as choosing to become more resilient.