over the years I have done many kinds of exercise. Aerobics and Jazzercize back in the stone age… ballet, modern dance, light weight training, gym workouts, mountain biking, running, walking, hiking, and the last 12 years, yoga has been at the forefront of my physical activity. In the last 6 years ecstatic dance (you, wildly dancing like no one is watching in a room full of people who are dancing like no one is watching them, and, no one is watching anyone else) in the last couple of years I have also been a regular at the Y and incorporated weight training, stairs and elliptical machines into my regime. In the last few months, BodyJam is the latest addition. BodyJam is a fantastically fun dance class where you learn dance moves and the choreography is built on section by section. The music is great and the moves very hip hop inspired. So I am now at the Y about 4 days a week, and am having a very different experience being in a gym atmosphere than I have ever had before in my life. I attribute my yoga practice to this shift.

In the past I had approached working out as something I needed to do to atone for the sins of my indulgences to radically alter my imperfect body into something thinner and hotter than it currently was.  It was a loaded masochistic exercise in feeling unsatisfied with myself and striving to attain something that was never realistic. At times it was obsessive. Weighing myself a couple of times a day. Not healthy at all and I think chances are good that a huge percent of people have this experience when they work out.

Fast forward to me after doing yoga for 12 years. I LOVE going to the gym. I do not see it as a task or grueling punishment that I must subject myself to. I focus on my breath, find a rhythm. Slow the movements down. Each move mindful and controlled. I delight in the strength of my body, the sweat and exertion, and I smile and laugh a lot in the process. I am curious as to what my body can do, how I can help it move with grace, build muscle and burn fat. Enjoying the workout itself rather than foucs on some nebulous end result.

It is very interesting to see how many people do not smile, nor even seem to enjoy any part of their workout experience. How uber serious people can be in dance class, or even yoga class for that matter. Sometimes I think yogis can be the most pious and humorless of all. I always try to remind people that we do yoga because we love the doing of it, not because someone held a gun to our head and made us go.

Find the joy, the playfulness, the curiosity.

Try something new: Dance, fencing, tai chi, zumba, kick boxing, yoga, ballroom dancing. Our bodies can fall into habitual ways of moving, so stir things up. That is good for your brain too.

Savor and luxuriate in the moving of your body and your breath.

Have fun, work hard, but keep yourself safe and don’t push too too much.

If you happen to take a class called Body Attack, please don’t take it literally…

Find an activity that you enjoy, not something you find torturous or you will never stick to it.

Don’t starve yourself, your body needs fuel. Make sure it gets the nutrients you need.

Be kind to yourself. No negative self talk, only encouraging words even if they are only in your head. Health comes from the inside out.

Finally, do it because you have your best interests at heart. If you don’t, who will?