Many people, especially women, are put off going to the gym and lifting weights as they think it is too hard or in turn will make their body become hard, but exercise, lifting weights and the gym can be loving, nurturing and so much fun.
I used to work as a fitness instructor, personal trainer and yoga teacher, and for a while was put off going back to the gym, because I ‘thought’ it was too hard for my body, but in truth it was how I had been choosing to exercise that was hard, not the exercise itself.
In truth my body really responds to it – rather than exercise feeling like a hard slog and something I’ve got to do, I have discovered exercise feels amazing, joyful, nurturing and really supportive. For me the key is to stay connected, to not be drawn into looking in mirrors, checking out other people, their bodies and what they are doing, but to truly stay present with myself and how I feel from within.
It is also not about being rigid with the exercises I choose to do. Sometimes I love using free weights, at other times I feel the need for more support and use machines. I also love playing and experimenting with equipment. There may be days that I stay at the gym for 20 minutes, other days where I will be there for an hour or more, all depending on how I feel and my workload that week, e.g. if I have a long, physical week.
There are even times when I have been tired, and ‘thought’, “Oh I’ll go home and relax”… but then have chosen to go to the gym instead and done a lighter session, which in turn has felt so nurturing and supportive, and in truth re-connected me with my body, and out of my head.
One morning, whilst sitting on a weights machine, I felt so clearly in my body, that if I make exercise about my outer and how I look, I go into my head and my body hardens – it becomes about drive and something I do… Whereas if I feel how I am actually lovingly supporting myself, making a commitment to me, then immediately I, and my body, feel much more present, gentle, amazing, light and full of joy.
Not only can going to the gym be joyful, nurturing and supportive, it also offers an opportunity to feel how I have been choosing to live in other areas of my life.
- does my body feel hard
- are there parts of my body that feel tight, heavy or stiff
- does my body feel unbalanced
- am I racy, anxious, stressed out
- am I being arrogant… thinking I know better than another
- is there a force, a drive, a push
- am I in my head thinking about lot of other stuff
- am I ignoring what my body is sharing
- is there comparison or judgement with myself and others
- am I putting myself down, disliking parts of my body, or
- am I focusing on one thing instead of feeling all of me?
…All of which is not me…
OR do I feel:
- joy-full and
- full of wonder at what my amazing body shares with me?…
… All of which is definitely all of me!
As I have found out, it is also an amazing opportunity to honour my fragility and vulnerability, to not override it and feel I have to be or act a certain way. I can feel fragile and vulnerable, be all of me and still exercise – each time my body is asking me to connect to something deeper.
So for me, going to the gym, exercise, swimming and walking is not a ‘should do’ or a ‘have to do’ – it is a ‘love to do’ – it is about joyfully connecting, honouring, nurturing and committing to myself and to my body, so that it will be of support no matter what is truly asked of it.
It is with thanks to Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and Caroline Raphael, who have inspired and reminded me to choose love again.
By Gyl Rae, BA Hons Fine Art, PGDE, DIP Personal Training & Sports Therapy
Exercise, when done in a way that assists us to connect more deeply with our body is super supportive and a very self loving thing to do as it supports us in our day to day activities.
Thanks for sharing your tips about going to the gym. I too have avoided the gym because It seems too hard and I dont want to make my body hard, but then sometimes have a rush of drive and feel like I want to “get big” it just shows how out of whack our perceptions about health and living are. Like you said Gyl its about staying connected with our bodies and knowing what to do, how much to do etc.
we are so used to taking the overstated necessity to ‘ harden up’ as something that we actually need to do, that it is essential that writing on subjects like this, is so important… Hardening up is actually the antithesis of what we need to do as a species.
There is a common psyche that thinks of ‘being connected’ as meaning that pushing the body actually helps to get connected. A marathon runner will say they are very connected when running a marathon. But the very revealing fact is that not only would injuries and long term wear and tear on the body be much reduced if people were truly connected, so would boredom with exercise and other factors that prevent people from exercising regularly. True connection is based on exercise for the love of movement and feeling the body strengthen and stretch without force or strain. I have found it means that my body wants to exercise every day or two in some form or another.
Exercising gently and aware of how my body is feeling and my body stays supple but if I push myself hard to ‘keep fit’ then my body feels hard.
That’s pretty awesome Gyl! Stripping away the consciousness of exercise as it’s been taught or fed to us really is the first step to appreciating that we actually know how to exercise and we know what our body needs. For too long we’ve relied on the so called ‘health’ world to dictate to us what is right for our bodies. However, it’s well worth considering that no 2 bodies are alike and that depending on how we individually use our bodies on a daily basis, whether we have physical day jobs or not, will all depend on the type of exercise we need to support us.
No two bodies are the same and as a yoga teacher this is a really crucial piece of information. There is an expectation in Yoga that students will try and emulate the teacher and when you think about this it really is quite ridiculous. Yoga teachers are often very flexible and very young and so expecting the entire class to be able to do what they do is not only ridiculous but dangerous. When teaching I really place the emphasis on connection to body first and then from that connection feeling and discerning just how far and how much to do of any one exercise
In recent years the gym has become a place where you can easily become overwhelmed with the degree of exercise that pushes us to the extreme. A place where simple weights and a cardio class is now being bombard with kick boxing, extreme weight lifting and high levels of intense core strength training. We are constantly being bombarded with images of people looking for the ideal body and pushing their bodies to the extreme. What you have shared here Gyl Rae is a very valid understanding that we have the choice to move with the tide of acceptance and feel the level of pressure we can pose on ourselves or chose to move against the tide and feel what is needed each day by listening to the body that gives us the strength to bring more vitality to our lives.
With the world so focused on pushing yourself physically to look good, it is lovely that you have found the importance of exercising as being an opportunity for connection, for honouring and nurturing the body and about commitment to yourself…. preparing it and yourself holistically for whatever is needed.
There is such power in simplicity, and such grace in delicacy that empowers us all to feel our true selves.
Reading this reminded me of how much I love swimming and that I haven’t been doing it much lately, I can also relate to when I feel tired not doing exercise and I have had the same experience that when I do exercise I end up feeling better. After work I often feel tired as I can feel I still take on things during the day, I am going to bring in exercise after work as a way to shift this while I also look at not taking things on in the first place.
I love the lightness in your article. So many people don’t like exercising in a gym and don’t do it, or do it but with resentment because it is somethings that is on their ‘have to do list’. For me exercising is absolutely on my “love to do” list as it is a great way to get out of my head and feel my body more and deeper. It is so great to really be in the body.
Lovey to see exercising as a reflection for the rest of my life. I will take that into my next session. I do that kind of reflection in swimming but hadn’t considered doing that in the gym. Great suggestion Gyl, thanks.
Like you Gyl, I’ve found different ways to exercise over the years… from weights in the gym, swimming, to more gentle stretching and Esoteric yoga. Even with walking there is a choice between a brisk walk up the hill, or a more cruisy one along the lane. The important discovery for me is I can exercise in tune with what my body needs or what I feel… it does not have to be the punishment I mistook it for from school.
Interesting observation about once we go into our heads, making it about the way we look while exercising, our bodies get hard. That means that almost everybody is walking around in a gym with hard bodies, because most people exercise for a different look.
Ah exercise.. it must be a myth that exercise isn’t needed when we are tired. Exercise can help us return to spaciousness within our bodies and that isn’t exhausting at all!
inspiring Gyl. Our body becomes hard and rigid when we impose on it a way it should look, or start to compare ourselves to others or images etc. You have presented a true exercise regime for the gym, love thyself by lifting weights! cant wait to try it.
We can be so driven by should’s and ought’s, that they can really run our lives…. Much better to let our hearts lead, and to honour the natural intelligence of our bodies.
I have noticed that my body loves to exercise when I have no preconception of what I need to get out of the session, in terms of feeling better or achieving a look, but am just taking myself along to the gym in a playful, sensitive and tender way and making the workout enjoyable. This has been a great way to build up strength and vitality and awareness how my body really wants to exercise.
Yes exercising my body feels like a lovely thing to do to be not only fit, but to be fit for life. I go to the gym, go swimming and go for walks every single day. Especially my walks I consider good medicine for my body. It is about the consistency, I walk each and every day, at least once a day. I have been doing walks for a long time, but only recently with a commitment and consistency to do it every day. I can say that everything I do in my walks is permeating in the rest of my life as well, in a very positive way. Walks train me to be in my body, feel my body and that is what I am experiencing throughout my days as well. There is no better taste than being in the body and feeling my inner beauty. After that it just doesn’t matter what I do.
I like that list of what is you and what is not. A beaut reminder that when I am in my head thinking a lot, it is not me. As I am not living on connection to my body. Thank you.
I have a solid rhythm with exercise but there are days where I feel stiff and don’t want to exercise, yet it is on these days that I know the exercise will really support me. It is for me getting over the idea that I have to make it a full workout but can keep it light and focus on stretching and lengthening the body. At the end of such a workout I feel lighter and much more prepared for the day ahead. That is the power of exercising gently, it is never a chore but really enjoyable when I let go of needing to make it heavy or hard.
That’s awesome Stephen. I totally get the idea that a session needs to be a full on work out. I’m working through that one myself. It’s such a made up story, and simply sets us up to fail.
Thank you Gyl Rae, beautiful said – as it exposes the lies that we have made about basically anything – that we can not do this, or should not do that – but we actually never truly connected to our body to see if we are able to that – but based it on our heads ideas. Great time to start living from our bodies and connect with them so that we can make choices based on that instead of our minds walking away with it!
Thank you Gyl, I agree with everything you have shared about going to the gym, and exercising can be a loving thing to do. Recently I committed to exercising more as I have a demanding job doing shift work and travelling overseas regularly, so for me it wasn’t about looking good – it was to support me to be able to truly serve without feeling drained or exhausted at work. I am amazed at how much better I am feeling at work from stepping up my exercise program, nothing rigorous just regularly walking and doing light weights and swimming occasionally and stretching the body has made a great difference to my energy levels and well-being.
I love the connection to my body when I am at the gym now. I have spent years abusing my body with my gym workouts -pushing my body so hard to look good on the outside. I am realising now that how I look on the outside comes from how I am on the inside so my gym sessions now fully support me.
Hello Gyl and certainly when you look at exercise like this it makes it a lot lighter to do. Exercise is about connecting to your body as you are saying, a check in. I love stretching because it wakes up the muscles in each part of your body ready for the day or winding down after a day. I use to exercise to look good and never really worried about how it felt. I remember being really good at running but loathing every minute I was running. It didn’t make sense but the ‘being good’ at it kept me going but I knew it couldn’t last. At times it can be still difficult to listen to what your body is saying to you and I override it but when things go astray this is the first place I look, how I am feeling and treating myself.
I worked out with a friend for the first time today and she was under the impression that woman have to do hard weights, as heavy as possible with few repetitions in order to build muscle. We did my style of workout with more repetition and less weight and chatted and really enjoyed ourselves as we did it. She told me she had only been going once a week but with this kind of workout could see herself go more often.
Thank you Gyl, bringing connection and taking the drive out of the things we do whether it be going to the gym, working at a computer or hanging out the washing brings a completely different relationship with everything – one of joy, lightness and playfulness.
Loved coming back to your blog Gyl. After feeling for over more than a year that I would love to go to the gym I made the commitment to go for a free try out day. Wow! Amazing. I haven’t felt this warm and full in my body for a long time! I agree when exercising honouring my body and what truly supports it, it is very supportive for more than just our bodies. What stands out for me is that I do not do it to improve myself, but to support myself with a more vital and fit for life body. I have been feeling a little down lately and can understand it is because of holding back in supporting my body this way. I look forward supporting myself like this in the gym as I am for sure getting a subscription! 🙂
Great how you have shifted the lens from the fixed view we tend to embrace, that exercise is about keeping the body in shape – a certain, pre-ordained shape coming from the ideals and beliefs on bodies that abound – by doing certain repeat routines and circuits when in fact, exercise is simply about body awareness, being in touch with the body, reading where it’s at and what it needs to keep it vital, not what a chart suggests it should have imposed on it in pursuit of an unattainable ideal.
Hi Gyl, this has been a great read for me as I have stopped going to the Gym because it felt too hard in my body and that I was overriding what is loving for me. I now realise that it is in the way I bring myself to exercise and my ability to stay with my body and breath through the process that is what makes it a gentle and loving activity and one that will bring much more to my life.
Connecting gently to our bodies with the simplest of exercises can be amazingly profound, and have an amazing effect upon our energy through the day.
I was re reading this blog, and it reminded me that exercise can be done to suit the way I’m feeling – a lighter session in the gym or the pool if I’m feeling a bit sensitive or tired has just as much ‘value’ as the full 45 minute version when I’m full of it!
Thank you Gyl, I really enjoyed reading your blog , giving me a fresh feeling about how loving, joyful and supportive, exercising with body awareness can be.
I used to feel tired and go to the gym to push and hype my body with intense exercise, but this only lead to exhaustion or illness. Now I go if tired and like Gyl, do a gentle workout and wow it is quite amazing how you feel accumulation of energy while spending energy. To me this shows Gyl is right, it is getting out of one’s head and connecting more to the body that reverses that feeling or lethargy.
It is weird … to get in the pool late on a Friday after an intense week, perhaps feeling a bit washed out. And then after some squad training to hop out and to feel completely re-energised. It’s washed away the day, and at the same time I feel fully present in my body, with my breathing and the feeling of a long heavy week has gone.
I agree Linda. There are various types of exercise people can do and obviously people have their preferences and things like location make a difference in what is available. But the main thing is how we go about the exercise. I have come to realise that my head is often no where near being in tune with my body. I have been making more effort to stay with me as I swim or walk or whatever and it has shocked me how easily I find my mind wanders off. Yet when my mind and body is in sync I feel the way the tension leaves my body and it definitely feels much more honouring and supportive.
I enjoy exercise but there are times when I have definitely pushed myself with an ‘I have to do this’ attitude. Reading your blog Gyl reminds me that there is a much healthier way to exercise that allows the support to be a two way street with my body. The more I support it through being aware of it’s needs and adjusting my form of exercise accordingly, the more it supports me back. Thank you!
I love how you say that going to the gym and doing exercising is about building a foundation. This makes total sense to me and the quality of that foundation is paramount. Thank you Gyl, you are inspiring me to go to the gym again and strengthen my body.
everything changes when we make the choice to connect to ourselves, from work to relationship’s to sleep, when we experienced the paradigms shift from reaction to reflection and observation, then the world rotates as well.
Gyl I just love how you shared it was how you ‘had been choosing to exercise that was hard, not the exercise itself’. It reminds me of the body attack classes I used to attend for a long time and absolutely loved while I was there but gradually found that when I would get home I would need to have a rest sometime that day to compensate and allow my body to catch up. I now understand this was my body telling me that I didn’t need to go to such extremes to be fit. I have always enjoyed exercise but now have a much gentler approach to it and am finding I actually enjoy it even more than I used to.
Love it Suse, you could equally write that ‘[we] had been choosing to [live] that was hard, not the [living] itself’!
“an amazing opportunity to honour my fragility and vulnerability”
Most people would not think that these words related to a gym experience so it is so refreshing Gyl for you to share how fragility and vulnerability can be loving aspect of a gym workout! This is revolutionary!
Anne how incredible would it be if men and women alike saw the whole of life as an “amazing opportunity to honour our fragility and vulnerability”