Author: Abby Resek
I’ve been trying to do more yoga recently. Sometimes I go to a class. Sometimes I use my favorite YouTube Channel. Sometimes I improvise a flow on my own. Sometimes I practice for about 5 minutes, and then end up sitting cross-legged on my matt for an hour with a cup of coffee and my laptop.
Sometimes I end up a ball of sweat. Sometimes I don’t feel different at all. Either way, it’s worth the same: it’s allowing me to practice and appreciate movement for what it is, not what it does.
Let me explain. For most of my life, movement has been a means to an end. I ran because I wanted to participate in races and relays with my family. I started strength training to avoid pain. Then I was strength training to get stronger, or to lose fat. Or, long term, to have good posture and feel comfortable as I age.
I walked because I needed to get to the store. I biked to get to work. I climbed stairs because I needed to do laundry.
I started to realize: I was moving because I expected it to give me something. Because of this, I started to feel it weighing on me. If it didn’t give me the results I wanted – if I failed a deadlift, if I didn’t bike fast enough, if long distance running just didn’t feel good – I felt stress. Movement began to alternate between something I looked forward to, and something that was a source of stress because I felt like I should be doing it because I needed results. After a lift, I would feel inclined to sit in my chair for the rest of the day because I already did my work today, thank you. And, after feeling this stress accumulate and turn into something indisputably negative, I started to think perhaps I should be treating movement as an entity in and of itself. Something to be treasured and loved and appreciated, whether it provided anything tangible or not. So I started trying to practice yoga.
I don’t think there’s anything inherent in yoga that doesn’t exist in other movements – in strength training or running or walking or anything else – but what it did for me was provide a medium for movement where I didn’t have any goals or expectations. I was moving because it felt good – I was moving for the sake of movement.
I’ve been searching for that appreciation in other places. I find it in walks in the sunshine. In putting in my earbuds and taking my first step out the door. In stretching sore muscles in the morning. In squatting to the floor to pet my cat. In running as fast as I possibly can, then resting as long as I want. In feeling strong when I swing a heavy kettlebell.
This isn’t to say goals are bad – not at all. Strive for that heavy deadlift, reach for that pull-up, pursue that growth and change. What I’m suggesting, and what I’m trying to bring into my own life, is balance. Movement is often a means to an end, but it is also something wonderful without that. What if, while you were strength training, you took a deep breath and brought some of that joy to your squat, your deadlift, your bench press? What if, sometimes, you let your badass movements be enough, just by virtue of what they are? For those times you walk into the gym and you just don’t have it, you feel tired, you feel the struggle, take a step back. It is enough just to move.
Appreciate movement because you can, because it’s part of who you are. Appreciate it for what it does for you, the places it brings you, the strength it gives you, but remember that it’s something worthwhile not just for what it does, but for what it is.