Stiffness, Stillness, and Movement

I just finished a month-long movement challenge. To me, making movement a part of my day has been less about an intense, fitness program and more about noticing what my body needs and wants. Am I tired? Am I tense? Stressed? Sore? Maybe dehydrated?

Movement can be anything from pacing when you’re on a phone call to working at a standing desk with an option to sit, from playing hopscotch to going for a walk, stretching, swimming, sex, painting, paddling, yardwork, yoga. It can be working on your posture while you watch your favorite show or read this article.

It wakes up your body and helps you get out of your head. It brings you oxygen and often reminds us to drink more water. It also helps you to be still.

Be still? Why is being still connected to movement? When you’re stuck on something, stillness enables you to think about it calmly without being restless to move onto something else or becoming consumed with resolving it to the point of anxiousness. Often, when we’re restless, it’s because our body needs to expel energy. To exchange old energy for new energy. But if we never give energy the chance to renew, restlessness can seep into many areas of our lives. Thus, practicing movement allows us to also practice stillness. We cannot have this stillness without movement.

Both are important for overall health. Consider a child who hasn’t played all day and is bouncing off the walls when you want them to settle down. Without movement, the child has all their energy buzzing with no outlet. This doesn’t change when we get older. Notice your partner furiously tapping their foot at dinner, or palming the side of the couch again and again with a trace of aggitation? Notice having an unpleasant night’s sleep and waking tangled in the sheets? As we age, we simply take on more responsibilities and create tons of energy inside our minds. Movement remains the most important way our bodies dispel all this extra energy, allowing us time to rest and heal.

Are you new to movement or recovering from a long-term injury or pelvic pain? Not moving for hours without the explicit purpose of sleep or mental rest is damaging to tissues, I refer to this as stiffness. As a result of stiffness, overstretching the body is very easy.

Here’s a tip if you feel stiff: ease into any movement (regardless how small it is) to prevent muscle tears. Our muscles are pretty delicate when they haven’t been moving because they are so tight. When you begin a movement routine, make your stretch only a fraction at the beginning. Add a little more as you go, without any bounce. We don’t want to be scared of moving, but I know that’s not always easy. Think of this as fun, be curious and patient. Be especially nice to your neck and hips. It’s probably not going to feel good if you lift really heavy things or get on a pogo stick or trampoline. Walk, it’s okay to go slow. You will gain speed at the perfect time for you.