Movement can be a valuable tool when building a connection with our own bodies, but it can also be used as powerful practice to connect ourselves to the natural world. Physically, psychologically and spiritually, connected with nature is known to be positively transformative. However, one may be left with the question: how can I connect with nature? In this digital age, we have access to such a vast array of photos and videos of the natural world, that in some ways, when we are faced with a gorgeous view or face-to-face experience with it, we may feel detached from it. This is where movement comes in.
Here are a few ways you can utilize movement to build a deeper connection with nature.
You know that soul-warming feeling when you sink your feet into warm, sun-soaked sand? That happens as a result of the 14,000 nerve endings in your feet being stimulated – nerve endings and pressure points that are usually shielded by the sole of a shoe. Furthermore, beyond improving agility and ankle stability, going barefoot in nature has been found to increase feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and connection to nature. Whether you're walking through sand, grass, soil or mud, being mindful of the sensations of the ground beneath your feet can be a beautiful mindfulness practice – just make sure to look where you're stepping, your foot nor the bee will be too happy about meeting.
Swim in natural waters
Perhaps one of the most liberating feelings is diving into a river, lake or ocean. Although many of us tend to only dip our toes out of fear of the chill or messing up our hair—immersing ourselves in the water can be energizing and mystical. Moving within the water in a way that is intentional such as swimming, surfing, or diving has been found to increase one's sense of their own body, sense of emotion, and sense of place. Although the cold tends to deter people from immersing themselves in the water, the body increasingly adjusts both within and across sessions, and is perhaps one of the most invigorating aspects of swimming. If you are swimming in a lake or river, bringing along goggles can further immerse you in the experience by opening your eyes to the world within the water. If you're going to the ocean, bringing along a board or body surfing allows you to connect to the energy of the waves.
Go out into rain, wind, or snow (obviously, within reason)
This is NOT me saying to go out into a hurricane so that you can create a deeper bond with mother nature, but more so going out into a bit of rain and wind (or even light snow), more times than not, is harmless, and can actually be quite gratifying. Too many times the moment it starts to sprinkle we sprint inside or pop open our umbrellas or shield our mascara from getting smeared, but giving yourself permission to get a little messy, wet and dirty can be a bonding experience between you and nature. When was the last time you went puddle jumping? Or got in a mud-throwing fight? Or leaned up into the sky and let the rain hit your cheeks? Doing these things cannot only be fun and exciting, but they give you the opportunity to be in nature in a way that reminds you that the natural world is not dull and stagnant – but a force that is strong and alive.
Although many of us spend half of our childhoods up in trees, by the time we become adults, the extent of climbing we do is on and off our couches. Climbing trees, rocks, mountains – you name it – can be particularly enticing considering at the top we are often blessed with a birds-eye view of our world; which expands our perspective and awakens us to the magnitude around us. If you are able, climbing allows you to work with nature to obtain a goal. As a kid, before I’d climb a tree, I would visually chart my path from the bottom to the top, as though the tree were inviting me to come see the world from its point of view. Viewing the world in this way – that it welcomes you to engage with it – can do wonders for your relationship with it, as well as motivate you to more deeply respect it.
[bf_image id="q7jwo3-6wum14-y48rx"]Of course, always be cautious and evaluate any risk before engaging in movement and/or immersing yourself in nature – but if it is safe and you are able, ‘green exercise’ can be an amazing alternative to working out in a gym: for both mental, physical and environmental reasons (considering the extensive energy usage needed to power treadmills, air conditioning, lighting, fans, vending machines, etc. in gyms). Now more than ever, it is important for each of us to build our own love story with nature because ultimately, it is this love that gives rise to environmental consciousness and sustainable practices. So, if you are feeling stressed, bored, sad, disconnected, or lonely, the natural world is out there, still welcoming us, and waiting to be appreciated.