Healthy Beginnings

The Positive Effects of Body-Awareness on your Fitness Program

Photo: Carole Bucher

Are you looking for a way to get back in shape quickly, without injury, extreme muscle soreness, and strained ligaments; a way to jump-start an exercise program, shed extra winter pounds, and restore connection with yourself?

There are many different exercise options, classes, and fitness programs to explore. But what makes a program successful? What are the important elements that make it work? Let’s look at three basic parameters one could apply to any class, modality, or sport, working with or without a trainer.

A successful fitness program would support a person to…

  1. stay with it over time (sustainability);
  2. do it generally without experiencing injury (safety);
  3. feel definitively better in body-mind, after doing it (worthwhile, interesting, fun).

These are relevant parameters for any exercise program or regimen, meaning it isn’t necessary to find the perfect program to succeed. What IS necessary is to find an optimal way of working with any program, a way that supports change in one’s inner attitude and focus.

To help us go further, let’s look at the other side of the coin using a short list of problems that could describe an unsuccessful exercise program:

  • Boredom (due to lack of interest);
  • Injury (due to lack of attention);
  • Not fun (due to lack of curiosity and attention);
  • Not sustainable because of the above (not worthwhile).

To work successfully with these obstacles requires intention, commitment, and awareness. So how does one begin? Very simply, begin by applying more self-awareness and body-awareness to daily activities, paying attention to your body and movement. Then, use this approach as a tool to explore your chosen exercise program.

The personal benefits are immense. One becomes aware of where the body is in space, spreading the attention throughout the entire body. Notice where your head, feet, arms, and legs are; how the parts work together in movement; how balance is maintained. Feel a clear sense of breathing, alignment and tension, or ease. Pay attention to the whole self, being in your body as fully as possible, not just in your head. This is a truly powerful way to jump-start an exercise program, and to get a fresh perspective on life, too.

Note also, that in any exercise or movement class, whether Zumba, Yoga, or Feldenkrais, the instructor should be watching to make sure you do the activity correctly, at a speed and in a way that minimizes risk of injury, and maximizes improvement and learning. Watch for this. If the instructor isn’t paying attention, do something about it. Be assertive and ask for help! This helps you build self-confidence and learn about self-care, sensing and knowing what is safe and appropriate—for you.

Keep in mind too, that like all skills, awareness develops from daily practice, just like practicing a musical instrument. In fitness, practicing body-awareness is the key to sweet movement music.

As Professor Pirkko Markulain states in Psychology Today Magazine:

“Exercising body awareness can make workouts more enjoyable: Instead of wishing it were all over as quickly as possible, we can learn to enjoy the various ways the body can become stronger and more mobile. This type of exercise attitude can also appeal to beginner exercisers, who do not need to go “flat out” only to feel frustrated and inadequate after an exercise bout. Instead of recovering from EIMS (exercise-induced muscular strain), we can exercise more frequently, but more efficiently.”

For people over age 50, improving self-awareness is the biggest thing anyone can do to reduce injury. This is a critical point, since the older body does not heal as quickly or easily as it used to. No one wants to be laid up in bed or hospital or hobbling around in pain, when the glories of the garden, the mountains, beach, or desert are beckoning! Life is short and wonderful, so let’s live it comfortably, fully, and in optimal health.

Wishing you happy and comfortable moving!

Carole Bucher, BA, Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and Teacher.

Feldenkrais, M. Ed.D. The Elusive Obvious. Meta Publications, Capitola, CA. 1981.
2. Markula, P. Ph.D., Psychology Today: Can Better Body Awareness
Improve Your Workout?
3. Hosford, B. MA. Body Awareness for Beginners; https://

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