TW - trauma and eating disorder
My introduction to movement started when I was young. I am grateful, as I know some have no starting point or modeling with movement at all. I saw my parents engage in a very punishing relationship with diet and exercise. It was cyclical. There were spurts of heavy and frequent movement with a focus on intensity, caloric burn and punishment of their bodies. A lazy body, a body that was “tired of being tired”, there was excessive negative self talk. It was an 80’s style nordic track in the bedroom, it was Calanetics, a pretty comical exercise video with an instructor with a mix of british + australian accents whose favorite tagline was “tighten the behind, tip the pelvis, let’s work that nice round peach”. We peeped from behind the couch and tried to mimic the moves we saw our parents doing. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood, we played hockey in the street and we all played some type of highschool sport, even if we weren’t that great (it me, I wasn’t great but I sure did have fun). I began my own punishing relationship with movement when I was in 8th grade in 1998 and it ended in August of 2020.
Everyone’s upbringing shaped our relationships with most things. Movement, food, money, other people, lovers, kids, all of it. It’s part of our journey as adults to disentangle what we vicariously inherited through experience/modeling and figure out what feels right, what feels good and achievable for us. Some have no experience with movement as children. I’m grateful for the visuals and for the importance my parents put into their movement journey, but I had to leave behind the idea that my body was meant to be punished, because it’s simply not true. You can push yourself to greater achievement, if that is your goal, but hatred, dislike and disdain are poor companions on that journey.
What I remember from all of my young activities that still holds true today. I like interesting movements, I enjoy complex movements that activate my brain and body. I like varied intensity, and I love moving with other people. I am a group mover. I do enjoy some solo exercise, but predominantly I work best when sharing the energy with others.
Trauma is insidious. It manifests and creeps and entangles us in many ways until we give it the attention, the space, and whatever it is that we personally need to heal. I personally re-lived a vicious cycle with punishing exercise and an eating disorder for the better part of 20 years.
Throughout those years I continued that cycle of seeking high intensity, punishing movement that made me want to puke. Fun! Now, I’m not here to demonize HIIT, running, heart rate intense activity. These types of activities can be very healthful and even delightful. I am simply relating that for a long time, I sought these activities with a mindset of “punishment”. The harder, the better, “no pain, no gain”, this was my mindset. I’ve tried so many activities. From spin to step aerobics to muay thai to triathlon. All with the intent of punishing the shame and confusion from my cells. It didn’t work. What I did create was a lot of patterning that I’m still working to untangle today. Now, I don’t see it so much as a problem or a job to move and disentangle, but more of a gift. I get to move daily and give myself love in the process. This is a novel experience for me. Throughout the many years of punishment movement I also compounded and solidified some pretty intense disassociation with parts of my body. I had a really high pain tolerance, a.k.a I was so not present in my body that I could walk on a broken foot for a few weeks or “push through” when my body was giving me so many signs that it needed rest or to stop whatever activity I was doing. I have had to train and work to understand/appreciate the sensations and signals my body is communicating with me with regard to movement, work, sleep, everything.
So, August, 2020; I made a deal with myself. Move my body once a week. Whether that was walking my doggies around the block or doing dance laps in my house (which I actually did when I was recovering from being sick), move your body in some type of way at least once a week. I recommitted to a regular movement practice. One that could gracefully ebb and flow as my energy waxes and wanes. Even tuning into the way my body works as a woman to harness the power of the moon is a part of the work I am currently doing. All of this to establish a loving relationship with this beautiful body, the only house I get on this earth. We think of ourselves as separate from our bodies. There is so much language around this concept. “My body betrayed me.” “My body wouldn’t do what I wanted.” It goes on and on. When truly, our consciousness, our brain, it’s all connected inside this house. We hyper fixate on our outward expression of being a body instead of marveling at the amazing capacity and resilience of our bodies to live, day in and day out, through the stress, the beatings, the harmful words we speak over ourselves.
That journey started with once a week, and pretty soon, twice a week and now I’m moving every day, for me, in some type of way. Some of those days are gentle yoga, really opening up joint spaces and moving in twisting patterns in ways my body doesn’t typically move in the work I do. Sometimes it’s lifting heavy weights or trying something new like spin class or jiu jitsu. Sometimes it looks like stealing away for a walk without my puppies. Mostly I walk with them, though. I’ve found that I truly do best when moving with others. My solo movement is generally to clear my head or change my perspective, which is very much needed but generally not as focused and in my body as other types of movement I do. I challenge myself to try one new thing per month. It keeps things exciting and challenges my mind as well my body.
You might think to yourself - She moves all day as a massage and stretch therapist, and when she teaches movement. Yes, that’s true. However, that movement is for others, I am focused on proper body mechanics, but the movement is not for me or about me. So I still move, sometimes multiple times a day, for myself. It is such a gift to be able to move and I’m still learning and titrating the movements I do to balance them with recovery and rest, which are incredibly important pieces of the puzzle as well.
My movement buffet now includes:
Your own movement journey, agreements, approaches, likes and dislikes may be vastly different than mine, and that’s great! My recipe and journey are unique to me just like yours are to you. I am merely sharing my experience here to let you know that your own journey is valid, too. Your ups, your downs, your agreements (inherited or founded by you), all of those pieces are wildly individual. I want you to find what lights you up, whether that’s water zumba or hopscotch or pick up lacrosse. The world is your movement oyster, go play! And invite me, haha! I will try anything at least once.