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Getting in Touch with the Hunger to Move: A Meditation

The English language has no word for this "itch" to move, even though there are probably as many different "itches" as kinds of snow.  Try this meditation if you think you were born without the urge to be active, if you have had trouble identifying what sort of movement you might like, or if you have used exercise as a way to punish yourself rather than as "recess."

The following meditation is taken from Great Shape: The First Fitness Guide for Large Women, the book I co-wrote with Pat Lyons.  

A note on meditation:  There is no "right" way to reflect.  You might want to simply read through the following, or you might want to print off this page and have someone read it to you, or you can make a tape of yourself reading the words.  You can do a relaxation first, or not.  You might want to have a journal ready to write down what you feel as you finish the meditation.  

If you feel like you need to stop at any time, please do so.  You may experience powerful feelings from doing meditation, or no feelings, or anything in between. If you have painful emotions emerge, please treat yourself gently. Doing an exercise that puts you in touch with your body may put you in touch with emotions you have "lived above the chin" to avoid.  Treat yourself with compassion. You might like some comforting  -  a hug or a soothing bath or a talk with a trusted friend. Consider writing down what you are feeling.

You can do this meditation more than once; in fact, it can be a regular practice to help identify the sort of movement you want.

* * * * 

If you would like to do the relaxation first:  Close your eyes and let your awareness settle gradually on your breath, traveling in . . and out. You do not need to try to breathe, your breath just breathes itself effortlessly. In and out, let the rhythm lull you.  Allow yourself to feel the support of the cushions beneath you and behind you, the floor beneath your feet. 

Imagine the path of your breath, traveling into and out of your body.  As it comes in it warms your body, flowing through your nose, down your throat, into your lungs. You can imagine that it keeps flowing down, warming your stomach, your pelvis, radiating out into your limbs, all the way to the tips of your fingers and toes.  Your breath travels through your body, and as you breath out, you take any tension that it finds out of your body. Like a warm ocean wave, your breath brings in relaxation, and takes away tension.  Feel these waves for a few moments. 

* * * *

Now begin at your feet and check each part of your body. What would your feet like? Do your toes need to curl and stretch? Experiment with curling your toes tightly and then stretching them out and away from each other, then let them relax.

Move up to your ankles.  Flex, then point your feet and circle them one way then the other. What do your calves need? Do they feel itchy, wanting to be warmed in movement? Tense and hold them, then release.  Move up to your knees and thighs.  Often the big muscles in your thighs hunger to be moved.  Make them hard and tight for a moment.  Squeeze them and feel the pleasure of that warmth, then release.

Move to your buttocks. Tense one cheek, then the other, then both.  Squeeze hard and hold, then release. Draw your attention to your abdominal muscles. Press your lower back down onto the surface you're lying on so there's no gap.  Push down, down, then release.  Feel the flow of relaxation moving up your body.  Continue upward, squeezing your shoulder blades together tightly, and feel the pleasure of stretching, then release.  Notice the feeling in your hands. Squeeze your fingers into tight fists, hold them for a moment, then relax and let your hands uncurl gently.

Finally, screw your face up tightly, pursing your lips, squeezing your eyes, and wrinkling your nose and forehead.  Hold tightly, then release.

Your body is now warm and relaxed. What sort of movement do you see in your mind at this time?  try on a few ideas.  Imagine how your muscles would feel doing something.  Slow and easy? Or do you need something stronger, something to pump heat? Smooth, fluid motion? Or harder, tighter movements? Where in your body do you feel a readiness for hard work?  Take a few moments to localize your desire.

Do you want this activity to be in water or on land?  Do you want to move to music?  Do you want fast or slow pacing?  Steady or a variety?  Do you want to be alone or with friends? Let your imagination call on every sense to paint a picture for you.

What do you see? What do you hear? What fragrance is in the air? Who is there?

Give yourself a few minutes to really embellish the scene.

When you feel ready, let your attention return to your breath. Then slowly open your eyes.

* * * *

You might want to write down your impressions and thoughts, or you can just reflect on what you envisioned. The purpose is to take the time to check in with your physical self and get to know your preferences about movement.  The meditation is only one way of doing this and will be more helpful to some people than to others.  If you try the meditation again you may have a completely different experience. But if nothing much happens for you after several attempts, you might simply ask yourself direct questions about what sort of movement appeals to you.

If you did come up with some images of the kind of movement you wanted, it might have surprised you, given how you've seen yourself up to now. How can you use this information?

Location of the hunger  If you felt your "itch to move" in your thigh muscles, you need to do something that will work those muscles. Brisk walking, cycling, jogging, low impact aerobics, and using weight machines will work your legs.  If you felt the itch in your arms, consider lifting weights, racquet sports, or swimming.

Type of movement  Slow, easy movements are the norm in t'ai chi, yoga, and some kinds of folk dance.  Harder, tighter movements are required for martial arts or aerobics dance.  What appealed to you at this time? 

Environment  Land or water sports? Alone or with companions?  Individual or team? Do you want to hear an underwater stillness? The noisy commotion of a squash court?  The pulsating rhythms of a dance class?  Do you want the privacy of your own thoughts out on a quiet bike trail?  The companionship and conversation of a close friend? The heat of full-out competition?  Use this information to choose among the endless varieties of ways to move.

You may have a better idea about what sort of movement you'd like, but it's equally important to get  an idea about your resistances to movement - the fears, concerns, distaste, and turnoffs you experience when you think about it. And don't assume that such resistances prove you're a born couch potato. Everyone has them , just as everyone has the counter-urge to move. The important thing is to find out what your negative feelings are and then figure out which of them are realistic and what you can do to make things easier on yourself.

Now you may want to write about the feelings that came up for you during the meditation.  Remember, you may have had powerful feelings or no feelings, or anything in between. There is no "right" set of feelings or images. Try to encourage an attitude of curiosity and respect for whatever your experience is. 

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Did you come up with any words for your hunger to move? 
Name the Hunger to Move


The Body Positive Dancer

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Last updated: March 05, 2011.