Being a wellness professional, I have a lot of conversations about physical and mental wellbeing. Usually, the first thing I hear after saying I am a yoga instructor is “oh I really should workout” or “I haven’t stretched in forever”. We usually chuckle about it for a second and then the conversation gets real. They open up about all the things that just don’t feel right. Maybe it’s their lower back again, shoulders aching, or their stress and anxiety is taking over. Whatever the case may be. Then the closer is “well I guess I should exercise more”. There is a hesitancy, an invisible barrier and the conversation has barely begun! So, it got me thinking, are we going about the conversation all wrong?
This thought led me down a rabbit hole of resources which, at an early stage of my teaching, provided some clarity in my wellness niche and propelled me down a unique movement path. The commonality in all my research was redefining how we talk about exercise. I never used the word much as a yoga instructor but found myself being pulled into that group based on individuals’ perspectives. So, I started testing this when having conversations. Here are my observations thus far.
When “exercise” was the keyword of the conversation, there was more negative energy. Almost shame that what needed to be done was not. Most sentences started with “I should”, “I haven’t”, “I can’t anymore”, “I don’t have time”, “I’m terrible at”…you get the point. Without prompting they brought shame on themselves for things they haven’t done whether it was their plan to do it, and they didn’t, or just by having this conversation they felt they were missing this invisible mark. This was surprising especially since that was not the intent of the conversation in the first place.
When “movement” was the keyword, the conversation moved to a more curious and introspective energy. The conversations weren’t clouded by the should of, could of, would of statements that they put on themselves. Instead, the discussion was full of inquisitive thoughts, thought provoking questions, and a general curiosity of possibilities.
So, what was different between the two conversations? Mainly, it was the perspective of the person across the table (or on the phone). Exercise has been hyped and morphed into something that many look at as a burden, a pain pill to help alleviate a problem. Where movement was received as a vitamin. A life supplement that can happily be added with a positive light rather than something that had to be done to possibly get the results they set out for.
In essence both “exercise” and “movement” are a form of physical effort. So in conversations regarding improving physical and mental health should we start the conversation looking at what are bodies are doing as a whole to determine what movement supplements we need to incorporate in our lives? It may call for an “exercise” but what is an exercise but a specific movement we want our bodies to do to result in a specific outcome.
Where am I going with this? I challenge you, as I continue to challenge myself, to look at how we shape these conversations and our relationship with the word exercise. How can we better inspire wellness that is attainable, positive, and long term? I believe that is through developing a better relationship with movement and how we can enhance our day with a variety of beneficial movements rather than short bursts.