Exercise: Gentle and Flowing or Pounding and Pushing?

by Kate Greenaway, BAppSc(PT), Physiotherapist, Australia

Recently I had a fascinating experience that highlighted to me the difference between moving and exercising in a gentle flowing way or pounding and pushing the body. I was packing my car after a lovely time exercising in the local pool when I noticed two middle aged men running down a steep cement driveway near me – they were literally pounding and jarring their bodies. They were red and puffy in their faces and they looked miserable. It felt like they were punishing themselves in pushing their bodies for some sort of outcome. I was feeling really fluid and content in my body from the gentle moving and swimming that I had just completed and I could really feel the contrast with what these men were doing as they slammed their bodies with each step.

I remembered it was only a few years ago that I was pelting up and down the local pools to do my ’40 laps’ or pushing myself up the gazillion steps to the Byron Bay Lighthouse to feel good about doing something ‘healthy’ and ‘good’ for my body. Part of my drive came from the ideal that  ‘I should have a healthy body’ as I was a physiotherapist and ‘how could I tell my clients to look after their bodies and exercise if I wasn’t ?’

That drive was behind years of dabbling in all sorts of exercise. You name it – I tried it … from gym and weight workouts to twisting myself up into all sorts of shapes with many styles of yoga – to a slow series of movements in Tai Chi and Chi Gung. I even studied Tai Chi in the UK under a  ‘master’ and diligently practised, even though my knees were giving me clear messages that this wasn’t a natural way to move and exercise. I realise now that all I did was make my body hard and like these middle-aged men pelting past me I was punishing my body and not supporting my body.

I had made moving and exercise, as with other things in my life, complex and outcome based rather than a simple enjoyment of my body’s natural way of moving.

I remember as a little girl loving the lightness and spring in my body and being fascinated with how there was a flow in my body. I also loved the feeling of that gentle rippling through the body when I floated in water – it was a bonus having friends with pools growing up in Australia!!! Somewhere along the line I had lost that feeling of the lightness and flow and replaced it with ‘what my body should or shouldn’t do’.

When I was in my 30’s I was considered very healthy by the standard medical parameters, but I had low vitality, was moody especially in the early mornings and each day was just a job to get done.

When I was 35 a physio friend introduced me to Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine – that was a pivotal point in my life. As a physiotherapist I respected and loved the body and its biomechanics and I found out that Serge, through his sporting background did likewise. I came to discover that he had a much deeper awareness and knowing of the body’s natural healing than anyone I had ever met. This challenged me initially as I equated knowledge of the body with some sort of traditional medical training, and here was a man without that but with a far greater understanding of the body than all the health professionals I had known over the last 15 years. He just always made sense and I could see that he lived what he presented – that your body’s vitality gradually comes back as you live more gently in it. It took me years to understand what being gentle and more self-loving with my body meant and I am still learning. Initially, in reaction to all the hardness I could feel in my body, I stopped most forms of exercise – this didn’t work either as my body weakened and I certainly didn’t have much ‘get-up and go’. It was my trust in and association with Serge and Universal Medicine that inspired me to return to regular exercise but in a different way. Over the last 12 years I have been to most of the Universal Medicine presentations where Serge has just shared what has supported his body and what he has come to know about the effects of different forms of exercise on the body. It is up to us to then feel for ourselves whether what he presents is true or not.

So over the last few years I have rekindled my appreciation of the natural flowing movement in my body when I walk, swim or do some light weights. As soon as I go back into the old way ……’I must do three more bicep curls ‘ it’s as if another five kg are loaded on my arm and my body goes hard . When I come back to enjoying the natural flow of the movement and an openness to learning from my body, that same movement with the same weight is easy and light. It’s still a work in progress or really a ‘love in progress’. The old program of ‘exercise must do’s’ is so strong that I can slip into the ‘doing of it’ pretty easily . This is slowly changing as I catch these moments – enjoy my flowing movement again and just keep it simple as to how and what my body wants to do at that time. When I do this it’s like my body sighs with relief (!!) and over time the hardness continues to melt. I have shared this with many clients over these recent years and they have learnt to appreciate and even love their bodies again. I am now in my late 40’s and I have way more vitality and joy in my body than I had in my late 20’s!

One of the best things to all of this is that exercise and movement have become fun and way more playful again. I have learned that how I choose to exercise impacts how I feel and how my body physically feels such that for me I now choose exercise that is gentle and flowing rather than pushing and pounding.

414 thoughts on “Exercise: Gentle and Flowing or Pounding and Pushing?

  1. I have discovered that there is no end to how gentle and fluid I can feel in my body – just recently I decreased the speed on the treadmill I am using and discovered how much more enjoyable it felt and how my body conveys this sense of having been exercised on a much deeper and more meaningful level.

  2. I love the natural flow and fluidity I can feel in my body when I am in rhythm with it and in rhythm with my life, everything is simple easy and my body feel gorgeous. At the moment I can feel a huge tension in my shoulders which I know is affecting the fluiidity in my body, and how I move, it feels hard and unyielding so it is interesting I pick your blog today Kate. I can feel some gentle exercise would help to release some of the tension I am holding onto.

  3. I loved reading this Kate – the developing connection with your body, the flowing movement resurfacing, and the love introduced to the way you exercise and move.

  4. Yes the difference between the effects of being in the flow of the body and of going with the pound of the exercise, is very much felt in the body. I did the pound for years, and still get caught up in it from time to time, and I did not realise how much my body preferred to be gentle.Now days when I walk up a hill, I practice being much more present with my body and I am doing this to support my body to be supple and strong, and not punishing it for something I ate or drank the night before.

    1. Your last point is a huge part of exercise for many Sarah, it is a punishment, a lack of acceptance of appearance or a punishment as a response to something we consume. Which of course is a bit of a merry go round of self disdain as such dislike only drives more of the same. I love the alternative that Kate presents which is summarised beautifully in the title.

  5. It is interesting that when we listen to our body it gives us clear signs of what is needed each and every day. A brisk walk, stretches, a light gym session or a steady stroll. All offer us an opportunity to support the body back that offers us an abundance of service in our daily routine.

  6. ‘…exercise and movement have become fun and way more playful again.’ It is amazing how we make exercise hard work when it’s not what our body truly needs. I love the gentle flowing exercise and take Kate’s point about not doing those extra kgs – we need to do enough so we are fit for life but no more.

  7. I just read about a man who set himself on fire as a protest against the violent regime in his country. How can such a huge act of self-violence set an example of not being violent? Equally, how can abusing our bodies by flogging and hurting them be done in the name of being healthy? Sure exercise is very important but always in respect and connection to our bodies.

    1. It is interesting to watch many pop up gyms being set up in the major cities where people can come and pound the equipment for a 1/2 session in their lunch breaks or during their working day. I have walked past and heard the teams shouting – “no pain no gain”. Watching people leave exhausted and depleted and pouring out buckets of sweat. As you mentioned Nicola Lessing the basic levels of respect are not offered to the body and we expect it to work in abundance every day.

  8. The body responds so well to us being loving towards it and moving and exercising in a way that supports it rather than harms it.

  9. I too was drawn to listen to Serge Benhayon and the teachings for the very fact that I could sense Serge was living what he was presenting and I was inspired on some level from day one. This shows me that it is through the way in which I live from my body that truly inspires another and not through any other way such as telling another what to do from the mind which is without question controlling, imposing and abusive.

  10. Kate, this is very interesting to read, I have also tried all sorts of exercise and have found that I love swimming and walking, when I was younger I played football and netball with little regard for my body, I had many injuries from this which I am suffering with today with knee problems, I now love being gentle with my body and not pushing and pounding.

  11. Kate, it’s great to re-read your article, I have been having sore knees lately and so have been observing how I walk, i have noticed that I can walk in a stomping way, not really being present with my steps or that I can walk in much lighter, more gentle way and so it is this way that I am experimenting with, when I walk gently there is a flow with my movements which feels much kinder on my knees and less jarring. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  12. This is such a great blog that would be a great addition to the pamphlet wall at many gyms. There is so much push and drive that is noticed when people frequent gyms or exercise classes. I often notice that as they walk in the door there is already a feeling of not being enough and looking for constant relief from what they think is a big problem with extreme forms of exercise. Thank you for writing on the joy that comes with all activities that are available from these local facilities and that the decision to go hard core or enjoy the support the body gets with light exercise comes from our commitment to building a foundation that is not about looking a certain way but feeling the vitality that is missing.

  13. I was having a conversation with a customer the other day. He was telling me that he suffers very bad back pain. His answer to my question ‘why’ was that he does a form of fitness training that pushes his body really hard. What alarmed me the most was that he seemed to be proud of this. He was more interested in what he could ‘achieve’ than taking care of his body and how it feels. It was very strange listening to him. It was like he was totally separate from his body and then surprised about the fact that he had pain. I’m sure this is the case for many.

  14. This natural flow in the body is what I have felt since attending the support sessions offered in various modalities from Universal Medicine. For years I had ‘pounded the pavement’ all in the quest to get fit and to look the part. My regime of exercise would include a 4 hour non-stop bike ride to start my weekend, followed by more sessions at the gym and jogging. The hardness in my body felt normal after a while and the flow that I feel now didn’t even get a dabble into my awareness. Many years later and with the understanding of the harm of the hardness, I am more aware of how my body moves, when it calls for rest and the importance of bringing more responsibility into exercising the body to bring more service in my work.

  15. There is a natural ease and flow to our movements when we align to the way our body wants to move rather than pushing and driving it for an outcome.

  16. “He just always made sense and I could see that he lived what he presented – that your body’s vitality gradually comes back as you live more gently in it.” This is the complete opposite of what we are generally led to believe as we get older, but Serge Benhayon is showing us that we really can age very gracefully, and the more we take true care of ourselves and treat our bodies tenderly, the more they give back to us. Never mind investing in expensive anti wrinkle creams, or nips and tucks – by living a life that is in true harmony with the body and its natural rhthyms, we become more beautiful and vital the older we get, than certainly I would have ever imagined possible. But I know this to be true from my own experience, and from many people I know who are making similar choices.

  17. Exercising gently used to feel that I was being half-hearted in the effort but now when I feel the flow of movement within my body with gentle exercise I appreciate that is whole-heartedly what my body loves.

  18. We learn to form our body and train it in a way we want but what you describe shows that our body has a natural flow and if we allow ourselves to listen and abide to this rhythm life becomes much lighter and enjoyable.

  19. Exhaustion was always a problem for me and I slowly discarded much of what was in my diet that was sugar related in order to change this. Although things improved, tiredness was always a problem. What has been powerful is that bringing my attention back to the body through the gentle breath and holding this breath in all I do, I have noticed that the tiredness has disappeared. When we are not choosing to be with our body, we are choosing to allow the mind to wander, thinking about the past, the future or perceived issues and problems and it was living this way that caused the exhaustion and tiredness. Choosing the breath first before exercising gently or any movement in life was a revelation to me that changed my life.

  20. Gentle, flowing, fun and playful; feels like a supportive, healing and loving exercise ‘recipe’ to me. Thank you Kate for the timely reminder.

  21. There is still the thought that a lot brings a lot, like a lot of effort is healthy, aching muscles must be treated painfully otherwise they do not heal or relax, when in fact it is the other way round, gentleness and tenderness are healing to the body.

  22. Just going to the gym for me is a very different experience now. I no longer go with the intent to change my physique to attract others, but to move my body in a way that builds it for my work and service.

  23. It is a great realisation to discover that the way in which we choose to exercise directly impacts on how we feel and the true impact it has on our body.

  24. Through developing an awareness and connection with ourselves, we are able to let go of driving our body hard in focusing on an outcome and instead feel an ease, flow and spaciousness to enjoy our body’s natural way of moving.

  25. The no pain no gain ubiquitous saying is a huge lie and 180 degrees opposite to the truth. Pain is always the body telling us that something is harming it and there can be no gain in harm.

  26. ‘As soon as I go back into the old way ……’I must do three more bicep curls ‘ it’s as if another five kg are loaded on my arm and my body goes hard.’ Something just twigged when I read that – I now have an understanding of why that ‘little bit extra’ at the gym is not the way to go. It is totally against the flow I too have established since expanding my understanding of the body and gentle movement through what Serge Benhayon has shared.

  27. I too felt the ill impact of yoga on my knees. I had so many beliefs attached to the yogic ideal I was actually blinded to its effect on my body. I’d tell myself how it must be doing me good but in truth I was out of sync with what was really going on. Worse still, I had an arrogance around my yoga practice. Somehow I was better than everyone else. Well, at least those not doing yoga – those more advanced I compared myself to! What kind of way is this to approach exercise??!!

  28. I never enjoyed conventional ‘exercising’ as I Always found it too stressful om my body, so other than riding horses I used that as an excuse to never do any other kind of exercise except for walking and the occasional swim. Having discovered that there is a very gentle and simple way to exercise my body that does not push it beyond what it wants to do makes a lot of sense, and also makes it very accessible and enjoyable.

    1. Join the club Sandra! I avoided exercise like the plague but always said yes to a walk each day. Realising that the body needed some more support for my core strength I noticed that this was possible when I connected to simple yet consistent exercises that would not make me lose breath, but bringing my heart rate up to a level would complement the way I was holding myself and living throughout the day.

  29. What could be more healthy than developing a relationship based on being playful, understanding, caring and genuinely supportive? Your words remind me Kate just how this is possible with myself, my body and then with everyone else. God knows my being has had enough of pounding my physique and reducing my connection with everybody as well.

    1. I love that you have brought in the playfulness here Joseph as it naturally allows the flow and simplicity to lead the movements.

  30. ‘Somewhere along the line I had lost that feeling of the lightness and flow and replaced it with ‘what my body should or shouldn’t do’’. How crazy that we let other people’s ideas of what to do take precedence over our own. Especially when we fall into doubt, we can follow someone’s advice just because we want an answer quick and we put ourselves under pressure when in truth there is no need.

  31. Almost everything out there to do with exercise encourages you to disconnect from your body. We have gyms with tvs blaring or loud music on, we have dvd’s asking us to push our bodies more and more and we have competitions asking us to drive on to beat others. I have tried all of these but none of them bring the feeling of joy, lightness and well being I get from exercising in connection with my body.

  32. The body will naturally lead the way. To do anything to counter that will have adverse effects on ones vascular system.

  33. I know for me I used to think of gym work as pushing my body to the extreme in an attempt to get really ripped and muscley – it was not to actually support my body through the day. There is such a difference when we work with the body rather than against it. Fitness for life rather than muscles for looks!

  34. It is interesting that what we consider healthy these days by the medical standards parameters does not take into consideration the quality of movement in our bodies only the physicality or the outer shell of our beingness when it is through the connection to our body and it’s true movement that we achieve a level of fitness that not only benefits the self but also our quality of relationships with the all.

  35. To be playfully loving with our body with deep care is the way forward for us all.
    To take the time for healing the body and support it in all the moves it makes for us.

  36. Since learning Connective Tissue exercises, and doing very gentle exercise sessions, it has brought a renewed enthusiasm and enjoyment of these things that in the past were a box to tick and go hard with. My body just loves the fluid movements and gentle nature of these activities.

  37. I remember exercising in the belief that the more you pushed your body to the extreme the more you actually got out of the workout, to discover now that it is possible to exercise more gently and tenderly without overstraining the body, my body appreciates the difference and no longer holds the belief that it’s necessary to push my body in order become fit and healthy.

  38. It is clear that the way we see exercise has to change. It needs to happen, as our bodies crave movement, and care, but the reason for it and way of it will be totally different.

  39. “Your body’s vitality gradually comes back as you live more gently in it” I reckon this one line could change the whole of our healthcare system, it’s the opposite of what we’re taught, that to become fitter and more vital we need to push our bodies, but could it be that our vitality is closer related to our quality than the strength and fitness of our body?

  40. Exercise, as I was taught, was to keep my body strong, flexible and fit. It had nothing to do with understanding and maintaining an energetic quality and awareness. With this focus, exercise then becomes like all other parts of our life – an activity that supports our whole body to receive the light of our soul.

  41. I am going through a massive shift in exercise at the moment where I am learning to respond to my body rather than push it through the motions. This has been great for me to read to appreciate that there is a gentle approach that is absolutely possible.

  42. Gosh I remember swimming at the local swimming pool all day long, it was so much fun. We need to reconnect much more to our natural ways of being, and observing young children and remembering how we were is the way forward!

  43. Kate, this is really lovely to read; ‘One of the best things to all of this is that exercise and movement have become fun and way more playful again’, I can feel how serious exercise can be; the pounding on the pavement with running and pushing ourselves hard in the gym does not look or feel fun and playful, I love that you have shared about exercising gently and playfully – this inspires me to exercise in this way too.

  44. I have had in interesting relationship with exercise, getting caught up in the glamour of it, wanting to have a body that just wasn’t mine, but what you have shared here is that exercise is none of that, it is about connection and building a body that is for love and service.

  45. “It’s still a work in progress or really a ‘love in progress’.” I love this! That is exactly the playfulness you are talking about in the end.

  46. “When I was in my 30’s I was considered very healthy by the standard medical parameters, but I had low vitality, was moody especially in the early mornings and each day was just a job to get done.” This really shows how we have to change the meaning of the word health to what health in truth means… how can we call someone very healthy when they have low vitality and are moody? By accepting this as normal we accept a lot less quality of life in our lives than we could be living.

  47. It really does make sense that we need to physically maintain our bodies to at least support us for the life we are living because our bodies are the very vehicles that bring through more of our amazing selves and so should be supported to the hilt.

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