20 Ways to Deepen Your Movement Practice

If you're an exerciser and you just want to get fit and look good and NOT go off exploring the inner nooks and crannies of your being, this is probably not the blog post for you. And that's totally fine.

But if you are like one of the many people who work with me, connect online or email me expressing your curiosity and confusion and delight at the interplay of your heart/emotions/psyche/narrative/life and the way you use your body, this post is for you. 

Here, I'd like to invite you to deepen your movement practice in any of the following ways. They are listed in no particular order and are here to help you feel what is happening inside and out and to present you with jewels you never knew existed.

1. S L O W   D O W N
Take an exercise (or a movement, if you want to move outside the exercise box) and slow it down. Way down. Notice. Breathe. Right now, drop your left ear toward your left shoulder. Slower! What happens to your jaw? To your back? To your belly? What emotions and thoughts are there? At what moment do you NEED to get out of what you are doing? Perfect. Do this all the time.

2. RELEASE YOUR PSOAS
I'm getting a psoas release reputation. And it's true, I love to lie down and do nothing. But if you really want to be present to not just your habits of the body, but your habits of fight/flight/freeze, do this and just notice. What happens? What doesn't? What story are you making up about that?

3. GET CURIOUS
This is for real. Curious about the whys. Curious about the hows. Curious about the whats. Free of judgment. FWIW, this sounds like, "Oh, look, my hamstrings don't allow me to move anymore here. I'll hang out here and see what that's like." Or, "I feel so sad when I do floor angels. I'm just going to breathe as I feel this sadness. I wonder what I'm sad about." Or, "I haven't wanted to walk all week. Is there something going on with me?"

4. CHOOSE YOUR TEACHERS/DOCTORS/BODYWORKERS WISELY
I'll take a class from almost anyone. I love to learn, I love explore. I'll also try almost any therapuetic modality. But it's important to be able to walk away. I had a pelvic PT tell me about why a repeat cesarean was better than a VBAC because of the stress to the pelvic floor in a vaginal birth and how "OF COURSE" I'd want a repeat cesarean if I gave birth again. It was the beginning of the end. Choose people who support your goals. And who believe in the wisdom of the body. And who are willing to do their own heart work.

5. GUARD YOUR HEART
You do not need to believe what someone tells you (me, included, of course). You do not need to repeatedly expose yourself to people/ideas/messages that pull you away from your body and away from your inner wisdom. Some of the most brilliant minds I've worked with require me to guard my heart, either because of my own triggers stemming from years past or just because of a lack of heart-based connection. If I'm going to choose to learn from or study with movement teachers who cannot meet me in this heart place (or even if I am going to follow people on instagram), I get clear on what I am needing from them and keep the more tender and vulnerable parts of me in the background.

6. BE ALONE
You won't be able to really go deep and discover the many layers of yourself within movement if your kid is always climbing on your back or you always do exercise with others or you never have any privacy. Sometimes, being with people is a kind of distraction. Get curious if the only time you're willing to pay attention is when you can't actually pay attention.

7. FIND PEOPLE
Conversely, sometimes we need people with us in order to experience enough safety to notice, to feel, to be. Or we need to know there are others showing up to their bodies in this way. You might need professional help (I do). And you definitely need people who are on a similar journey. You need people who notice alongside you. You might find them in a yoga class. You might find them online. But find them. Don't make yourself be alone in a journey that needs support and encouragement and empathy.

8. BE QUIET
Hit pause on the online class you're following along with. Turn off the radio. Silence your phone. Listen to your breath. Listen to the sound your shoulder makes when it slides around. Listen to your tears. Listen to your thoughts.

9. DO SOMETHING NEW
Your body craves variety. If you always explore your upper body, try something further down. If you always walk the same direction on your loop, go the other way. Give your body new inputs in the form of light and texture and touch and movement and intensity and duration. Allow yourself to wake up!

10. LET SOMEONE TOUCH YOU
Movement is so much about what YOU do with your body in any given moment. And I know you love to exercise. Yet having someone put their hands on you in the form of massage or energy work, e.g., can take you much deeper and more quickly, at that. Find someone(s) who, again, does their own inner work and who respects the integrity and wholeness of the person they serve.

11. GET PROPER (MEDICAL) CARE
Your journey into the body isn't just about today. And it isn't just about your movement. There are all kinds of ways we aren't moving the way we want to be moving or why we have pain or why we're disconnected from ourselves. Sometimes, there are diagnoses to go with this. There may be supplements or medications you'd benefit from. There may be modalities like acupuncture or psychotherapy that you need before your can even begin to explore on a deeper level. Ask around, get referrals, look a bit to the fringes and find people who can help you be healthy on every level.

12. MAKE THE BREATH A PRIORITY
Slow it down. Notice it. Check in with it. Work the parts of your body that restrict it. Read up on it. You need sufficient levels of oxygen to be optimally healthy and the settling effects of breath work make your nervous system primed for handling what may come up when you deepen your movement practice.

13. GO OUTSIDE
More often. And then even more often. Maybe barefoot. Maybe half-naked. Maybe in the dirt. Literally ground yourself.

14. LOOK FOR SYMBOLISM
You might be really tempted to create a metaphor out of everything that happens to the body such that you neglect tending to the physical in order to address the metaphysical. Or maybe you resist finding any larger meaning in what ails you or in how you can or cannot move. I encourage you to find a middle ground and to look into the physiology even as you look to the deeper meaning. What does "prolapse" mean? What is the significance of an arthritic knee? What is the lesson in your injury?

15. LOOK FOR PATTERNS
The body speaks. And it's sometimes subtle messages appear everywhere we turn. Even as you look for symbolism in what's happening in your body, look for how the same thing that's happening in your body is happening elsewhere in your life. Prolapsed organs? How are you not well-supported in your life? Concave chest? What else in your life are you retreating from or needing protection against?

16. STOP BEING SO PERFECT
I love alignment work. I love to do things right. But I once wrote a whole post and did an entire Facebook live on being less perfect because I kept seeing how everyone was getting in their own way by trying to do it just right. You want to deepen your experience of your body? Stop policing it.

17. RELEASE THE BELLY
There are many places where tension creeps up on us. But this sucking in, this bracing, this dissociation that happens in our GUTS is a sure-fire way to restrict our access to wisdom our bodies have for us. So release your belly. Again and again and again. 

18. TALK TO YOUR BODY
Yup. Tell it how you feel. If you're pissed off that it's doing x, y or z, fine. It can handle hearing it! If you are afraid to squat or run or jump or face your illness, let it know. (P.S. It already knows anyway.) Trying to hide who we are and how we feel supports this idea that we aren't one whole system.

19. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Yes, I mean this in the traditional sense: if you hurt, stop; if you're tired, rest; if you are undermoved, move. But I mean it even more in a non-traditional sense. Ask your body questions. And then listen. Curious about what that pain is in your right elbow and not sure what to do about it? Ask your right elbow. And then listen. Be willing to be surprised.

20. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOODNESS
It's really hard to be present to ourselves when there's not enough good going on. When the people around us are toxic and our jobs are draining and our environment is uninspiring and we hate the clothes we have to wear and our social media feed leads to depression and there are no flowers by the bed. Give to yourself. Value what feels good to you. Seek out actual inspiration.

One final thought before I leave you.

A client said to me last week that she sometimes wishes she weren't so thoughtful. By which she meant that the deep journey she's on - and for which I've partnered with her for this leg - sometimes feels like a burden. Going deep, noticing, healing, staying present...it's hard.

I get it.

I once wrote about the fact that I didn't know I was half alive. This tendency we have toward not going deep, toward not showing up to what's true for you, not noticing - this is a form of being half alive.

So yeah. It's sometimes hard. But if you're not doing the work, you're probably living a half life. And that comes with it's own costs, too.

There's something else, though.

This work my client is doing isn't just about keeping her awake to the hard part, just like you deepening your movement practice isn't just about tending to pain. It's not always hard! And what then? What about when the struggle eases? When all the presence and attention to the painful stuff becomes an ability to be present and attentive to the richness of life? When hours of slow noticing become an ability to play and move creatively in your life?

What happens is that the joy of this human experience actually comes roaring THROUGH you and it makes every bit of work entirely worth it. I promise.

In love & light,
Jen