It’s my first year of grad school. I am in a class led by my advisor, Dr. Vicky Jaque. She is standing at a podium with a Power Point projector behind her. Her wire rimmed glasses are pushed down over the tip of her nose so she can glance at her notes then back up at us. With wavy light brown hair, casual clothes and tennis shoes, she is not much taller than five feet. We, a class full of both undergraduate and graduate kinesiology students, are waiting for lecture to start. The class is called Fundamentals of Kinesiology or something of that nature. For the undergrads, it is one of the few classes they will take from Jaque – her time more aptly spent in her lab, office or graduate only level courses. For us grad students it’s a class we could assist in the future, perhaps next semester or after graduation. In either case, both groups of students are ready to listen attentively. Jaque clears her throat and starts lecture. “How many of you believe that EVERYONE should exercise?” Hands shot up quickly. We are all eager to answer this question correctly. “Okay, okay,” she says as she looked back at us neither acknowledging nor refuting our response. “Next question. How many of you believe everyone CAN exercise?” Hands go up more slowly, but still, the majority’s are up. After all, we are kinesiology students. We are there because we believe in the power of exercise. Didn’t she? She looked back at us matter-a-factly. “What if I told you not everyone should exercise. What would you think of that?” Before we could answer she went on. “You will come to realize that not everyone can exercise, and even if they can not everyone should. For some, it is down right detrimental to their entire system.” We all looked a little shocked, and I, who had rested my faith in this woman who was going to be my advisor, was a little miffed. That being said, I listened with open ears. She went on to describe conditions in which just normal ADLs (activities of daily living) require so much effort that they, on many days, are plenty enough demand on the body. Tasks such as being upright, dressing, bathing, eating and communicating taxed the body to the point that there was no “extra” energy for exercise. Add on some days of occupational therapy and those with these types of conditions are basically doing their version of cross training. Their bodies can only take so much.
Nearly a decade later, I have not forgotten that lecture. It gave me pause, information, and a completely different perspective on the roll of exercise for the individual. It educated me and taught me an important lesson. Just like no two bodies are the same, no two movement prescriptions should be the same either. I am grateful to Jaque for opening lecture that day with those questions. It has helped me define the work I do.
For many years I have a struggled with what to call myself. Am I a Pilates Instructor, Yoga Instructor or Kinesiologist? Am I a teacher, Movement Coach, Exercise Physiologist or Fitness Instructor? Truth be told, I am all of these. But the two words that most resonate with me incorporates the titles while simplifying the message. I am a Movement Educator. I am cueing movement to an individual’s unique body whether I am teaching standing Hatha yoga poses, Pilates fundamentals or simply how to breathe better. It could be a Pilates roll down, a functional squat or alternative nostril breathing. Perhaps I am teaching advanced arm work on the Reformer, or restorative yoga poses on the bolsters. It doesn’t matter. Formal exercise may not always be appropriate for an individual or for a given time, but MOVEMENT is always possible. The very act of extending our inhales and exhales is moving breath in and out of lungs. Drawing our bellies in engages our deep core muscles without having to use the spine. Swallowing and humming activities strengthen our vocal cords while relaxing our necks. You get the idea. It doesn’t have to be a marathon, a Hot Yoga class or a long hike. Sure, those things are awesome (and if you can do them, go for it!) But those and even gentler forms of exercise are at times not appropriate for some. We may be in a season due to acute or chronic illness, grief, or injury where we just can’t keep up our “normal” or “former” exercise routine. It’s ok. Simple movement is good, too. At times, working on those fundamental tasks like breathing, ergonomic sitting, good posture, and relaxed standing, can be THE exercise that the body needs in this space and time.
I realize my story turned into a bit of a soap box (enter embarrassed emoji). If you are still here, I am most grateful. 🙂 Honoring the space and ability that we have at given time is so important to me, especially as I approach my birthday next month. But let’s not wait for our next birthdays! Let’s honor where we are at right now, and do what movement, however much or little, feels good. What do you say? I hope you are on board. And if you need some encouragement, even if it is solely to breathe with me, grab your mat and log on to Zoom this Thursday at 10:00am PST. I’d love to see you there.
In knowing that every movement counts,