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.

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

  1. ‘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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. “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.

    1. So many of us strain every sinew when we exercise our uncared-for and under-exercised bodies. We go from one extreme to another. It is a bit daft and not in any way healthy to over strain an unhealthy body. Gentle exercise is far more loving to ourselves.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. I love what you are sharing here Kate. I have lived a life of pushing the body very like your two middle aged joggers and its true, when in that mode everything takes a huge effort and is exhausting, whereas when I give moving gently and with flow a go there is no draining, it is as if I could keep going all day without any fatigue. It is well worth exploring this as it is literally life changing.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. Experiencing a more gentle way to exercise and staying present with myself has been transformational in opening up my awareness of the way in which I now hold and move my body. Through listening to my body and how it is feeling, exercise has become much more fun and lighthearted and something I enjoy as part of maintaining my overall health and well-being.

  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.

  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.

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