I read a great blog the other day; Mind & Body Fit and How it Relates to Writing. I agreed with everything this blog said, and it made me reflect on the many tried paths of exercises I’d attempted (and failed) at in the past.
I’m not a person who’s ever been naturally inclined to exercise. If someone had given me the option of “couch potato-ing” with a bowl of popcorn and a Netflix binge-marathon, or a couple of laps around the park, I wouldn’t have hesitated to answer. In fact, I wouldn’t have answered. I’d have just gone to heat up the popcorn.
I had no idea of the array of mental benefits that exercise could give. I had always assumed it was purely for physical purposes, and where I’d always been a bit on the chubby side, it wasn’t enough of a motivation for me to really stick with it. That bar of chocolate won every time.
It didn’t help that all the exercises I’d tried, I didn’t particularly like. So, it felt like a huge chore to get up and do it. Jogging was a public exhibition of a red sweaty-faced nightmare, cycling seemed a big undertaking – having to battle with the evil forces of the garden shed in order to persuade it to release my bike from the clutches of old rakes and paint tins. Swimming was a no-go where I lived unless I could afford the extortionate gym prices.
Then the mindfulness revolution happened. Suddenly everyone around me is bending and contorting themselves into odd positions as the nation as a whole seems to discover yoga.
I stubbornly avoided it for a while, claiming that simply bending and stretching wouldn’t lose me any weight, it was far too slow and easy. I was under the impression that exercise had to make you nearly pass out before your body would drop an ounce of fat. (Thanks to all my school P.E. teachers for drilling that idea into me, it’s brought me a world of joy.)
Eventually, inevitably, I gave in and had a go at it.
First things first, yoga is NOT easy. I discovered this as I began shaking in every “basic” pose I attempted. I couldn’t believe how much strength and control you needed over your muscles to be able to do something that looked so simple.
Secondly, I realised…I loved yoga.
There was no arguing with the garden shed, no paranoia over how red and stinky I am in the street, no debating over whether to eat or pay for the gym that month. There was just me and an inexpensive yoga mat, with the quiet privacy of my front room.
Another thing I realised; I felt like a different person after yoga. Still me, but a better and lighter version of me. Words flowed out of my mind and I wanted to sit and write for hours after I’d done an hour’s session, as if it had been the key to unlocking my imagination. Everything felt easier. Things that had seemed like chores before suddenly became enjoyable, and I felt more grateful for everything in my life.
Apparently exercise releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, fondly nick-named “the happy chemical.” This does what it says on the tin and lifts your mood, helping you to feel less “stuck in a rut” emotionally and physically. It is often artificially produced by anti-depressant drugs to help people who suffer with mental health issues.
I sighed happily as I realised; I didn’t dislike exercise. I just hadn’t found the particular type of exercise I enjoyed doing. We’re all different and just because I don’t find any joy in rock-climbing or dancing, doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy moving my body in another way. Yoga is my key to fitness and although I’m still overweight for my height and age, I feel hope that one day I’ll be able to get to the point where I’m in a much healthier place. For now, yoga is helping me achieve my dreams of writing. It’s also improving my mental health and wellbeing. I’m calmer, happier, and more logical at the same time as being much more creative.
The other, wonderful side-effect of discovering this, is finding the key to my mind. Exercise has helped me unlock my writing potential. Words flow from my head, down my arms, through my fingers and onto my keyboard with joy, whereas before it would feel clunky and forced.
If you’re inclined to be a couch-potato, like I used to be, then I implore you to try some small experiments with different activities. Maybe you haven’t found your particular exercise? I bet it’s out there. You could be a secret footballer or karate expert. You could just fall in love with a weekly aqua-aerobics class. There are so many opportunities nowadays to do different things, we live in a world of possibility. Let the benefits of exercise help you towards achieving your own dreams, whatever they might be.