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Fitness is not a goal measured by a number on a scale or a 5-minute mile. Fitness is a feeling of being fully in our element, at home in our bodies.

Juliana Spicoluk

How, exactly, you may be wondering, is fitness a feeling? And if it is, how in the world can you cultivate it?

You’ve probably heard about the endorphin rush to your brain when you work out. Most likely you already know that exercise can benefit you in a myriad of ways, including reducing stress, lowering anxiety, increasing motivation, and even helping your social skills (group classes). You’ve definitely been told that exercise is good for your mind and body. But maybe you haven’t thought about stepping off the fitness treadmill (I must reach a 5-minute mile; my goal is to climb Everest faster than ever before; I WILL increase my push-ups to 1 per second).

From birth, we’re taught that setting goals and striving to attain them is a good rule of thumb for anything and everything we want to achieve. In the world of fitness, it’s no different. Olympic athletes often train solely to beat the best time. Professional soccer players focus on winning the next game. Marathon runners are forever striving to increase endurance. The problem is that once you reach that elusive goal, whatever it is, you often find yourself wondering what’s next.

But if you change your perspective about fitness, your feelings shift too. Contemplate the idea that fitness is a feeling and you may be pleasantly surprised. What was once a rote, automatic goal-oriented task could shift into an ephemeral experience full of surprise and wonder. At Boho Beautiful, we believe fitness is about feeling confident and powerful in our bodies. This goes beyond the physical. It includes self love and daily practices that integrate body, mind, and spirit.

Three ways that fitness is a feeling and how you can cultivate it

Meditation, yoga, eating healthy, small acts of self-love, practicing gratitude and filling life with love are some great ways to integrate fitness as a feeling. And the more you can cultivate fitness as a feeling, the more you will gain from experiencing it fully. It’s not about being the best, it’s about the change you create when you approach fitness with a fresh outlook. Let’s look at some practical ways you can cultivate feeling more fit.

1. Change your Daily Habits

Be Spontaneous Every Day

According to the brilliant work of Moshe Feldenkrais, the founder of the Feldenkrais Method of somatic education, how we move is a reflection of who we are and how we feel. By slowing ourselves down and becoming more aware of the way we move, we can change habitual patterns that are often the source of deep suffering and physical pain.

In one of his most important books, The Potent Self, Feldenkrais discusses the ability to be spontaneous rather than intentional. Surprise yourself with a new way of opening the door. Instead of reaching out with your right hand, try using your left. Rather than putting toothpaste on in a straight line that ends with a wave, give it a slow squiggle and notice the difference.

By doing things differently and with more intention, we automatically create new neural pathways and open up new possibilities. When fitness is a feeling rather than simply a goal or a milestone or a target, we can approach it with spontaneity. We can experiment with new ways of moving, new ways of exercising, and new ways of understanding. This, in turn, influences our feelings, which are constantly shifting and changing.

Small changes every day can have a huge impact over time.

Be Reversible on a Daily Basis

The ​​other concept Feldenkrais is famous for in the somatic world of mind-body relations is the idea that all movement should be reversible. Reversibility is a key factor in ‘good’ movement. Why? Well, basically it means the capacity to stop a particular motion at any point and then move in the opposite direction with as little hesitation as possible.

If your movements are reversible, they are also changeable. In other words, if you are good at reversibility, you are inherently able to move in any direction. If you can go back where you came from, you can probably shift trajectories to other directions too. This, according to Feldenkrais, represents the pinnacle of movement. This skill allows you to move however you choose and to change your movement quickly, with great agility and without struggle.

For athletes who often need to react fast and change directions flawlessly, this is a cultivated skill. So just as we can practice our dexterity, we can practice cultivating our own feelings about fitness. By being more conscious of how we feel, we automatically start a process of learning and growing. As we deepen the awareness of our own bodies, our movements, our ability to be spontaneous, and our skill at dexterity, the more we can also cultivate fitness as a feeling. Just by being aware of it, we start a process of growth that never ends.

Yoga is a fantastic place to start cultivating this practice on a daily basis. It’s not about being the best or reaching a specific goal. It’s about the little tiny movements we make every day. It’s about coming to the mat and surprising ourselves. It’s about seeing if we can reverse a movement and how it makes us feel when we do.

2. Play More. Suffer Less.

Meditate Playfully

The esteemed Buddhist teacher and author of Seeing that Frees, Rob Burbea, introduced the idea of ‘playful’ meditation. He believed it was essential to allow the imagination to explore new ways of seeing the world around us and ourselves. By being more playful and having more fun, we can shift away from “how things should be” to how things actually are and how things can be. By seeing the same thing in a new way, we can change the way we feel and free ourselves.

Remember Robin Williams standing on top of the desk in Dead Poet’s Society to illustrate his point? He was saying the same thing. You don’t have to sit at a desk to be a good student or read poetry. You can stand on top of your desk and change the way you see the world. It’s that easy!

The same is true for fitness. If fitness is a feeling, then it can automatically be imbued with fun and playfulness too. We aren’t obligated to suffer as we move into a crow pose or focus on the burn of our thighs as we hold a plank and try to beat our own time. Through imagination, we can actually turn these hard moments into something fun. If we don’t take ourselves or our fitness too seriously, we can discover new ways of exercising. As long as we are open to seeing things in a new way and cultivating change and growth, the possibilities are endless.

Be Curious

Burbea, who was a jazz musician and self proclaimed wanderer, also discussed assumptions. We all make assumptions. Sometimes we are not even aware that we’re doing it. We have preconceived notions about how things ‘should be.’ That includes fitness.

We often get wrapped up in the idea that in order to be fit, we have to be thin. Or in order to be fit, we have to be strong. Or fast. Or flexible. Or the winner. The list goes on and on. We are often the biggest obstacle in our own path. By changing how we ‘see’ fitness, we can change our perception of it, and of ourselves. Start asking more questions and getting curious about yourself.

Rediscover fitness as a feeling instead of just a physical challenge with a pre-defined goal. This will inherently allow your body to flow in new patterns. Curiosity allows you to discover new ways to improve your fitness and truly enjoy the fun in fitness. Practice being more aware of how you feel. Invite yourself to try new exercises. Your body can flow in fun and freedom when you remove assumptions. Fitness is a feeling we can cultivate in our own unique, incredible way. This freedom already exists. We only need to participate in it.

3. Put Change in Charge

Movement guru Ido Portal sums it up with his usual panache and no-nonsense Israeli style. “You’re gonna get what you practice. If you practice sheisse, you’re gonna get sheisse. If you practice clean, you’re gonna get clean.” His point is pretty clear. What you cultivate is what you embody. So if fitness is a feeling you can cultivate, how do you do it?

We’ve discussed awareness, spontaneity, reversibility, assumptions, and playfulness. But what about going back to basics? Fitness, at its core, is all about movement. If fitness is a feeling you can cultivate, then it starts with movement. No one will feel fit if they sit on a couch all day munching chips. And no, the act of reaching for the chip isn’t the kind of movement Portal means. When he talks about Movers, he means people who are in motion and practicing their movement. A lot.

Practice Makes Perfect

For Portal, fitness is a mindset. We can all live in a state of fitness. It’s not about winning any races, it’s about donning your track shoes and putting one foot in front of the other. You can only be aware of your own fitness once you’ve started to practice it. That’s also true for the way you feel about fitness.

You’ve got to start somewhere. Put aside your self doubt. Free yourself from that inner critic. Don’t allow any niggling self judgment to stop you. These feelings cultivate excuses. As Portal puts it, “if you won’t, then one day you may not be able to.”

It may be overused, but Nike had it right. Just do it. Practice is about movement. It requires you to take action. Fitness IS a feeling you can cultivate. But only if you start. Each of us has a unique way to approach fitness and our own talents and skill sets. But no one gets better without training. And the feeling associated with fitness is worth every second.

Looking for a great place to start on your new fitness is a feeling practice? Head to Boho Beautiful and check out our free 14-day trial. Yes, it’s free. No strings attached. So what have you got to lose? Your journey starts NOW.

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