Exercise as a Practice

footsteps

A while ago, I came across the following statement: “Those who don’t make the time for exercise, must eventually make the time for illness.” It is a bit harsh but it rings true. Most of us know how important it is to exercise our bodies, especially now that we live mostly sedentary lives, but we often tend not to make it a priority. It may not seem vital although it literally linked to vitality. The strange thing is that one almost always feel better immediately after exercising, yet there is usually a reluctance to start. This seemingly difficult first step is often what stops us. The same is true for most practices.

So what motivates some to break the initial discomfort barrier, go through beginner’s doubt and enter the next phase – which is generally painless. We all have gone through that process, it is not a mystery. Almost everybody I know experience the same thing. At first there is resistance followed by rationalisation and then if one is intelligent enough, one does it anyway. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. Some claim that the most effective way to overcome the resistance is to develop a habit of exercise. Although I like regularity, the idea of habit disturbs me. It feels like routine. It feels tedious.

When I look at it deeper, it would seem that what motivates me: is learning. If there is learning involved, a form of progression – growth – then it seems very worthwhile. So can we turn exercise into a practice? We may not clearly see the improvement at first, but if one exercises with awareness and attention, it becomes more interesting does it not? With this approach, not only are we exercising our bodies, improving our fitness and well-being but we are also learning the art of mindfulness as we do it. Exercising this way becomes more like holistic practice.

To turn exercise into a practice, one must commit. For example, I have been committed to doing Psychocalistenics everyday for the last sixteen years. It is a short form of gym/yoga which takes under twenty minutes to complete. I have more recently turned to a daily session of Yoga. Nevertheless I think I would really benefit from doing another regular form of exercise that involves going outside. So let me commit here and now to make a practice of either running or cycling  everyday – it does not have to be long and if I am in a place or situation where I cannot exercise, I can always go for a short brisk walk. What about you, are you ready to make exercise a practice?

L.