I spent a few months neglecting my body.

It started with a change in how I felt at Bikram yoga. My body started getting stiffer and tighter throughout the class. In every class. Strangely, it felt like the yoga I was doing was aggravating that. I kept pushing through because I thought that’s what I should do, until I hit the point at which it became clear I was ignoring what my body wanted, which was to back off and rest.

Once I stopped going to hot yoga four mornings a week my body started to feel better in certain ways. But I really missed the sense of community, the satisfaction of sweating and working hard, and the strength and glow in my muscles. However, I just couldn’t make myself return. (By the way, I don’t want to discount the benefits of my yoga routine. For the year previous, that routine had kept me steady, grounded and fit as I integrated into a new community, so it served me well when I needed it.)

The only problem was that as time went on, I wasn’t getting any other exercise. I tried to replace hot yoga with Crossfit but my body didn’t like that either. I tossed around ideas from things I’ve always loved, trying to find the exercise solution that would feel good. Dance classes? Nope. Other kinds of yoga? Nope, not yet. Swimming? Oh god no, I get too cold! Running? Sometimes I love it, but not right now.

After a few attempts to bring exercise back into my life I realized that my body and my self needed something more organic and much less structured. It was a sedentary few months as I tried to work out what feels good to my body now, because everything that has made sense before just doesn’t feel right anymore.

Then I noticed that walking felt good. So I started finding ways to walk more. As it warmed up and got less rainy I started getting out and about around town with my daughter on our bikes. I noticed that I would get giddy with happiness. It seems that all I have to do is sit on my bike and spin the wheels, and I start smiling and laughing. Yelling Woo-hoo! Getting strange faces from my daughter. If I had a bell I’d be ringing it constantly.

So finally I found two things that seemed to work. But biking and walking around town isn’t enough exercise to counterbalance computer work and the intensity of connecting one-on-one with clients. Not to mention keeping my mood lifted. I still hadn’t solved the problem of how to get an appropriate amount of exercise into my life.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that the most effective way to bring exercise into my life is to make it part of my daily routine, rather than an activity I have to plan for, register in and schedule around (especially as a single mama). Building inefficiencies into my life.

Because of this, I still look back with nostalgia on my two years in Montreal. When I lived there I walked a great deal, and up and down a lot of stairs. Because my daily life included so much walking (no vehicle and fantastic public transportation), going to different classes and jobs in different parts of the city, and because many of the buildings were older with no elevators, I had so much exercise in my normal life that I could even sprint up four flights of stairs without losing my breath. I was so darn fit, and it didn’t feel like any work to stay that way. I loved it!

Last week all of this ruminating intersected with my daughter’s desire for more uninterrupted quality time with me, and a quick look at the city bus schedules. We figured out that the buses have bike racks on the front, that there is a quick and easy route to a stop near her school, and a short walk that takes her to her class just in time for the morning bell.

So we shifted into this new routine, and it seems to be working on a few different levels. After I drop her off I ride my bicycle along the highway back to town for a 45 minute bike ride – enough exercise when we do it each morning for me to feel steadier in my mood and more alive in my body.

You might be wondering what all of this has to do with art and creativity. I feel it has everything to do with the creative light within. Those connections are so clear to me.

Consider this. My daughter and I go on a journey every morning, with each other as company. We travel down the highway for 15 minutes, then take another 10 minutes walking down a green and beautiful country road lined with trees. For all of this time, she has my undivided attention – something that is rare these days. Because I can’t try to multi-task, I am more present and open to hearing about everything that’s up for her. She settles, relaxes and blooms in the space of that kind of attention and I rediscover the amazing person I’m raising over and over again.

For the 45 minutes after I drop her off, I get 10 minutes of riding down a country road and 35 minutes of riding alongside a highway. I get time with myself (which I love), and because there is an element of danger that comes from riding anywhere that there are fast-moving vehicles, my attention is more mindful and present – it has to be!

I love the feeling of a little ache in my legs, a soreness of muscle that tells me I’m using my body. It feels so good, and so satisfying to arrive home ready for a shower that will wash off well-earned sweat. It feels glorious to be able to have moments of coasting too – the downhill stretches are so blissful on a bike.

The other thing that this change in routine has given us is a chance to see a different community. The small community of bus-riders. The older fellow who gets off at the stop we get on. We think it’s his grandson that he rides and walks with every morning – but it could be his son. Nevertheless, I like to see them. They clearly adore each other’s company – there is never any impatience or shortness – the older man goes at a pace that works for the little one. I make up little stories about the regulars. I’m likely wrong, but it’s fun to observe and wonder.

We get a chance, as we wait at the bus stop, to watch all the drivers going by in their little car-bubble worlds. When we walk along the country road to school we see the rush of parents driving kids to school. Sometimes it’s scary as they zoom past, too fast, distracted. Once I saw a mom driving while also eating from a bowl of cereal! It’s a good reminder for me, when I’m driving, to be more careful, slow down and remember that nothing is so urgent that speed will solve it.

We experience the landscape in a different way when we’re on a bus, bicycle and by foot. The odour of fresh-cut grass, of manure, of vehicle exhaust is much stronger. It lingers longer. We feel the wind on our skin and the ground underfoot and bicycle wheel. It has more texture than when we’re in a car.

We see people differently too.

Changing our routine exposes us to different stimuli and different perspectives on the same journeys and people. Our rhythms get shifted just a little, and that’s a good thing. All of this fills my creative well.

As always, I’m curious – how has your body been feeling lately? How have you been meeting it’s needs. What about routine? Have you intentionally changed routines lately? Or perhaps unintentionally? What new ideas and experiences have resulted from the shift?

Until next time,

Janelle

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