July 2011 Self Care Retreat: Movement

by Valerie on July 2, 2011 · 8 comments

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Welcome to the first installment of the virtual self-care retreat that Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness and I are hosting this month: Movement.  Uncharacteristically for me, I actually wanted to write on movement for this retreat – I say uncharacteristically, because I used to be far from naturally inclined to move, much less exercise.  This was nothing new – in fact, I have many childhood summer memories of my mom insisting I put down whatever book I was engrossed in so that we go for a walk or a bike ride.  As I went from childhood to teens to adulthood, I always equated moving my body with exercise, which felt like drudgery.

Eventually, though, little by little, I changed my attitude a bit. 

It took years.

The key part for me was that in recent years I started thinking of movement as a type of self-care, and stopped thinking of it as exercise.  Ten years ago I started doing yoga, then I tried dance classes – both of those contributed to changing my mindset, but it was all very gradual. Initially, I did not even like yoga that much.  In fact, I found it kind of awkward and uncomfortable.  With time though, I found yoga to be the perfect “non-exercise exercise” but I was not ready to completely embrace movement as self-care because I still thought of it as exercise.  It might seem semantic, but that had a huge hold on me.  And I still kept making myself go to the gym, which never made me happy.  At best, I had no endorphins, but more usually I had pounding headaches or acute nausea.

As a city dweller, I have always enjoyed walking, but I had a real wake-up call a few years ago when both my ankles hurt all the time – this was about the time the persistent joint pain I had lived with since childhood generally got worse.  The several miles I walked every week was no longer an option. On top of that, this was also about the time my sinus problems were too bad to sustain any sort of yoga class, much less go to the gym.

I felt pretty lost.  I remember one night being completely unable to breathe because I was so congested and decided to do a seated forward fold.  That seated forward fold, followed by a couple of seated yoga poses, made a world of a difference to my outlook that night.  Eventually, when I slowly improved, I had a newfound appreciation for walking as a means of self care.  When I returned to doing yoga, I longer viewed it as something where I had to keep improving my practice – I was just grateful I could go to a basic yoga class and get through most of it.  I also started stretching more, seeking out restorative and yin yoga classes.

One thing that has also helped me is that I no longer get pounding headaches or acute nausea when I engage in any type of movement, as was often the case, even with a long walk. I suspect these symptoms are now gone as a result of a combination of switching to a gluten-free diet and addressing vitamin and mineral malabsorption issues as well as adrenal depletion.  While I still do not love to move, I find I crave it more, and not feeling sick from it really helped change my mindset.

It has been a long journey, but month by month, especially in 2010, I started seeing how slightly more intense movement can also be a form of self-care.  I no longer consider exercise as one of my goals, but rather  this year, I decided to call them mind/body goals.  It sounds like a small difference, but it really helps.  That was also why I decided to sign up for the 21-day yoga challenge last month, as it was both about yoga and meditation, and could include restorative and yin yoga.  I also now get a tremendous sense of satisfaction when I move, which helps me stay in this mindset of movement as self-care.

Next week Cheryl is addressing meditation, mindfulness and reflection as a form of self-care.

This virtual self-care retreat is to inspire you all to make July a month of reflecting on self-care and the many ways to nourish ourselves.   We encourage everyone to participate in this event in a way that feels appropriate to them, whether through personal reflection, journal or other self-care.  If you would like to share your experience with self-care, we would love to include you in the experience, whether you join us for one week or every week.  You can write generally about self-care, or focus on one of the themes (movement, food, family/friends/pets, creativity and meditation and mindfulness), or write every week about each of the themes.  We ask that you link back to this post so that more people can learn about this retreat, and leave a comment for the weekly theme host, too!.  If you would like to be included in our  roundup, please email a link to your post, along with your name and blog name, to us at selfcareretreat at gmail dot com by July 30, 2011.  Feel free to use the badge in your posts.  Non-bloggers who would like to contribute,please email the full text to the same address and it will be included in the roundup.

Be well and take care of yourselves.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wendy @ Celiacs in the House July 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

All good points and true at any age. I am finding I have to change my approach and it has taken the last year for me to accept that I am no longer the athlete I was in my teens, 20s and 30s. I have gone from denial to just giving up, to coming around to a gentler approach.


2 Cheryl Harris July 2, 2011 at 9:44 pm

in some ways, true maturity and bravery is embracing the stuff that doesn't come naturally, so that's awesome! So glad that yoga has been a kind of homecoming for you.


3 Gena July 2, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I love this beautiful post. I've always marveled at my capacity to keep exercise a thing of pleasure and joy, rather than body control, given my history. I'd also have to admit that the stress of this move has me working out a little compulsively, and I'm actually glad that a busier end of the summer will help me to curtail that impulse. You're good inspiration.


4 gfe--gluten free easily July 5, 2011 at 1:56 am

Valerie, sharing your thoughts on movement and being so honest with all of us is very inspiring. I think that so many of us think that movement has to be the "0 to 60 mph" type thing, when it's a much wider spectrum of what we can do and should do for our bodies and it varies by age. I've been reading the Primal Blueprint this weekend and Mark Sisson makes you look at movement in a whole different way … as play, as varying movement and level of effort, as lifting heavy things from time to time, as running sprints, etc. It made me "reframe" our camping weeked to my husband as us staying young by all we do to get away for a weekend at our mountain property. In the past, we've whined a bit about all the work, but decided it was worth it. By looking at all this "work" differently, we relished it instead of being annoyed by "having to do it." Loading up the truck, unpacking, unloading our storage shed, setting everything up, putting our dock back in the river, taking the canoe from the barn to the truck and finally down to the river, paddling, swimming, cutting wood, hauling wood, and much more were all good things, not just things that had to be done. The interesting thing is my knees (which have been bothering me lately) gave me almost no issues this weekend. 😉 Tomorrow morning I'll be back at my yoga.

Thanks, Valerie! So happy to be part of this series with all of you inspiring ladies!



5 Cheryl Harris July 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Hi Valerie,
My post on self care through movement is up! I am so glad I found the perfect picture to go along with it.


6 Karley July 6, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Thank you for doing this, ladies! I just started another blog as an offshoot of my regular daily blog and it's about my own journey to a healthier life. This came at a great time!



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