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.

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

  1. This is a great sharing Kate and brings a greater understanding that if we take care of our bodies our vitality does come back. I have found that the more I am in unison with my body the more I’m shown when I step away from gentleness but also how to come back.

  2. By doing the gentle Esoteric Connective Tissue exercises, I can feel where there is hardness in my body from going into protection against the world and what I was feeling. I now realise that when the body is free and fluid in its movements it’s as though nothing sticks to it. It’s like have a water proof coating where all the slings and arrows of life just fall away. There should be much more access for people to experience Esoteric Connective Tissue exercise as it is a true way for our bodies to move.

  3. ‘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 observe so many joggers on the street who look like they are in pain and when I observe their bodies it looks like what they are doing to them is punishing. The bodies really don’t look like they are up to the exertion, as they certainly don’t look like they are being moved naturally. As we begin to let go of the consciousness of drive and begin to honour our bodies more, we can find a settlement that allows us to exercise with the body in a way that honours it, rather than against it.

  4. I can relate to those bodies pounding and looking miserable during the gruelling pushing. I used to do it once upon a time. Now I exercise very little, but I would like to try ‘exercise and movement to becoming fun and way more playful again’. I’ve taken exercise way more too seriously and its time to introduce more fun with it.

  5. This morning I went for a swim and often in the early mornings the pool can be very full with what feels like everyone fighting for a lane and a space.
    Some days I have noticed I can join in the mad frenzy and it feels horrible and others like today, I feel it but I don’t let it effect me and I remain calm, observant and grateful for the opportunity that is always in front of me.

  6. Is it “complex and outcome based rather than a simple enjoyment of my body’s natural way of moving” and the “lightness and flow”? A great way of observing my relationship with my body in my moment to moment choices.

  7. The sound of ‘pounding and pushing’ – that is so not attractive to me. Give me gentle exercise and a good walk any day.

  8. The more gentle we are with our bodies the more vital we become. I’ve definitely experienced this over the years and again now feeling there’s more to honour in regards to my body.

  9. It’s true that when we pound and push we squeeze the playfulness and enjoyment out – it becomes all about the end result …no gain without pain mentality – Since being more consciously present in my body I find there is a steadiness and a flow that feels quite spacious and my work outs or work ins have become so much more enjoyable on every level.

    1. These days I don’t see any gain that comes out of pain to be worth it. If it goes against my body then it will not be sustainable. Such as exercising. Whereas gentle exercise feels great, it’s something I want to be consistent with and it’s a joy to do so.

    2. I agree Elaine, when we make it about the end result, the fun and light heartedness is masked. Exercise needs to be fun, and with that the steadiness develops and from this we develop a whole new perspective on caring for our bodies.

  10. I love how you talk about natural flow, as the body has a natural flow and by supporting that natural flow we naturally know how to be when when we walk or swim.

  11. Love it Kate what you are sharing, how there is another way we can exercise and move our bodies that is not demanding and damaging our innate qualities we are here to express and be. To be able to incorporate these into our exercise for me has been a developing process and I am loving it.

  12. Exercise is such a loaded word and in the past I have been very caught up in the ‘more is better’ bandwagon despite my body giving me clear messages that it does not appreciate being pushed beyond its natural limits. Finding a balance with gentle exercise that supports me is still a work in progress but allowing this to unfold without judgement means that the fun and playfulness I felt as a child is rekindled.

  13. “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 exposes how we define what being healthy means. Exercise is a great way to care for our body but it’s such an irony that we think that we have to push our bodies to be ‘healthy’, and loving ourselves seems to get completely missed out in that process. It’s kind of crazy and makes no sense but we do.

  14. Yes Kate I too remember that lightness and flow as a young girl, everything was fluid and easy and as you say the moment we bring in the ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ then the body has restrictions of what it has to be. Stripping this back and letting this go I am absolutely loving.

  15. I can so relate to doing an exercise on ‘must do’s’ pushing myself not feeling good enough unless I meet my self imposed target.
    Now it is not all of the time but most of the time I too have dropped that harshness and have come back to a way of exercising that honours my natural flow.

  16. It’s so interesting about the connection of gentleness with the body, gentle movement and vitality. It makes sense that pushing ourselves in exercise and being hard and rough with the body is not vitality promoting because it no doubt causes a lot of harm to the tissues, etc, and is something for the body to recover from. I’m starting an exercise program tomorrow so it will be great to explore the gentle, flowing movement.

  17. I go for a daily walk along the river Thames and sometimes I’m almost knocked over by cyclists that are pushing so hard on their bikes and their only focus is to keep pushing their bodies from A to B.

  18. Kate what you have shared is gold and makes so much sense to me as I used to drive and pound my body in a variety of sporting endeavours as well as in my working practices and now with a different commitment to work and utilising light exercises while being focused on our connection and breath this makes a world of difference to the over-all-wellbeing and vitality in my day. Then when we also add walking as in Walking Therapies as presented by Serge Benhayon our body starts to respond to a whole new level of True interaction that is felt as a blessing for our whole being.

  19. “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!” this line is a show-stopper Kate, proof that how we choose to treat ourselves in life is really the most important thing, and that it’s never too late to make this choice and feel the benefits of it.

    1. In my 20’s I had the vitality of a slug. Breakfast was chocolate and a cigarette, morning tea was a hot chocolate, lunch was fish and chips and a cream bun and dinner was most of what was in the cupboards. Food was what I used to get my sluggish body to move, although looking back food probably hindered its ability to move more than it helped it to move. Now I feel vibrant and alive and food is an adjunct in my day and not the focus.

  20. I exercise more regularly and for longer, since I have made it gentle, being rough and pushy which is how I thought it should be in the past, put me off and I avoided it.

  21. I’ve always avoided exercising as I identified it with that kind of punishment you share here Kate. Since I’ve known Universal Medicine I’ve discovered that there is another way to be fit by treating my body respectfully. This new approach has opened myself to gentleness, which is essential to enjoy and deepen in this new relationship I now have with my body. Exercising has become something that nowadays makes me feel healthy, light and playful, and now I love it!

  22. Just getting the job done already brings the body into a state of drive and urgency. How different would this feel when we stop to read what is needed rather than what is driven?

  23. I was in LA recently, going on a gentle walk with my husband. We were walking down a steep hill. Coming towards us was a woman in about her 60’s. She was kitted up in running gear. She saw us, and started pounding up the hill, music on full blast. My husband and I walked past her and then turned around a few minutes later and she had started to walk again. I recognized instantly that in me – in the past I would always push myself harder when people were watching then slow down when they weren’t. When exercise becomes about proving something to others and not doing it in response to the body, it can be exhausting and harming.

  24. The push and the pound does not allow us to feel how the body embraces the flow and ease that exercise brings. Instead we are offered the strain and hardness and we call this a ‘great workout’.

  25. Exercise is to support the connection we have with our bodies, not to bash it, not to drain it and not to change it. We as a society are far from engaging with exercise in a manner that enhances this connection.

  26. “It took me years to understand what being gentle and more self-loving with my body meant and I am still learning.” I can so relate to this, I think it is a life long process as we are forever students of our selves and of life and there is so much of the world telling us to be hard and driven – so there is a lot to unpick!

  27. ‘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.’ When we stay in our natural flow we find we move with an ease, when we start putting drive and effort in, not only do we lose ourselves in the process it suddenly becomes really hard work.

  28. Vitality is a rare thing these days. So few are truly vital and even fewer are really enjoying and embracing life. Have we not remedies and solutions for long enough to see that nothing has worked. We are all too quick to grab an energy drink or sugar bar without truly and deeply feeling why we have low vitality in the first place.

  29. There is such a strong ideal that says overcoming the unnatural and training our body to achieve the impossible to a point where you can look like you have no pain is heroic. If we are to exercise in support of our body, and not in search of recognition/identification, that would not be how we would treat our body.

  30. Vitality is such a different measure of wellness that we often overlook when we think of physical fitness and function.

  31. “I now choose exercise that is gentle and flowing rather than pushing and pounding.” I always hated the ‘pounding and pushing’ so opted out of exercise altogether. Having discovered that gentle exercise can be so beneficial it is now beautiful to feel how my body responds these days.

  32. I’m just about to exercise so this is a brilliant reminder thank you – that every move we make is either melting our hardness and tension or increasing it. I think that drive and push comes in when we exercise to change something, rather than to simply take care of our bodies.

  33. ‘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 ?’ Such an interesting sentence, striving for an ideal never works and yet at the same time as a physiotherapist you inspire with the health of your body and how you treat your clients. Clients get everything about you and the way you live. Your words got a different meaning and a different foundation after you changed how you exercised.

  34. Living, working and moving with complexity and outcome gives our body a drive that it doesn’t like at all. And that also stops us from connecting with our tenderness inside and our universality on a bigger scale.

  35. It is the most gorgeous feeling to feel your body literally guiding you through its natural impulses as to what to do and how much to do it. It has such a beautiful way of knowing all about everything that is far greater than just what we know from our heads.

  36. Life has a flow which naturally supports us. As long as we stop fighting or trying to strive to drive ahead, we can be part of it – and our bodies love living this way instead of stressing in our head – thank you Kate.

  37. It is interesting how we can make almost everything in life hard work, even though it is possible to have it simple and flowing when we do not do more than we need to do.

  38. As an adult I used to play squash and loved the hardness of the game. No way would I even consider playing it now, I dread to think of the problems I’d have had in my body if I had continued playing. I played for 20 years, between the ages of 20 and 40. I have knee problems and it will have exacerbated those. Now I love gentle exercise and don’t miss the competition.

  39. The great thing is the more aware I become of my body and listen to its messages, it is almost impossible for me to pound and push my body like I used to, because I know the consequences and how it will affect my quality in everything I do.

    1. Same here Alison not only with exercise but in every day life, whenever I push too hard or ignore what I am feeling in my body everything I instantly know about it and get the opportunity to change how I am treating or caring for myself.

  40. It is so easy to impose on the body and override what is naturally there, to push and to be proud what our body is capable of at the expense of our innate tenderness and delicateness. I know for myself how expectations I have on myself can come in the way of listening to my body and surrender, the more I let these ideals and beliefs just be, the less grip they have on me and my movements.

  41. If we were to respect the natural flow and order in our body then we would not have most if not all of the illness and disease that we have now.

  42. I have been doing an exercise programme recently that has been so unlike my past ‘idea’ of exercise, that I have been really inspired to incorporate this into my day. It is quite incredible how the simplest and smallest movements, when done gently and in true connection with the body without straining or pushing, can have such a profound and lasting impact on the whole body and how we feel.

  43. I used to exercise constantly with the pounding and pushing, but like you Kate I am discovering the benefits of exercising more gently and feeling how my body responds to this without adding any stress or being hard in my movements.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s