The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
I’ll be honest right off the bat, I absolutely hate the way our society thinks about exercise.
We’re taught to move our bodies so that we can be healthy. However, when we look deeper, health is translated into skinniness, regardless of whether we naturally have that body type or if we enjoy our fitness routines. Because being fit is seen as being synonymous with success and happiness, we often feel pressured to use exercise as an unhealthy mechanism to achieve an ideal life (and perhaps become “that girl” – but that’s a whole different topic). Like many others, I fell into this trap, exercise becoming both a motivation and a source of anxiety.
Then, my YouTube algorithm revealed that this wouldn’t be my fate. I was exposed to the wonders of yoga and Pilates, and although I wasn’t instantaneously converted, it was the beginning of a healing journey.
There are two YouTubers I pretty much owe my life to. One is Adriene Mishler, the amicable host of Yoga With Adriene, which is arguably the most popular free yoga channel on the site. The other is Nicole McPherson, the soothing Australian master of diverse Pilates routines found on her channel, Move With Nicole. These women through their kind, personable guidance, have provided me with the tools I need to truly take care of my body and my mind.
As I said before, our idea of “taking care” of ourselves in terms of exercise has been twisted and contorted to suit societal expectations. We’re fooled into thinking that it’s all about physical appearance and attaining a number (such as calories or weight) imposed on us by toxic standards. This is where Pilates and yoga have completely switched my mindset on wellness.
Unlike many other exercise routines that may focus on meeting external expectations, Pilates and yoga force an internal, intuitive search for fulfillment. Yes, they obviously also concentrate on physical health; Pilates is a low-impact exercise concentrating on building muscle and mobility, and yoga’s often used more for balance and flexibility through a relaxed flow. However, both Adriene and Nicole emphasize the absolute importance of listening to the body in order to find satisfaction in physical movement.
This is what I absolutely adore when I exercise now. It’s not about anything other than feeling good. It’s about tapping into my intuition to truly understand what my body is asking for. Some days I have all the energy in the world and I’m ready to get a good workout in. Other days, I’m tired and sluggish, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to take days off when I just feel like crap. No need to force anything.
It took me a while to realize this, to break free of the restrictive ideas I’d imposed on myself (but which were ultimately not my fault whatsoever). So, if you’re feeling trapped as well, take it easy on yourself. Finding liberation in exercise isn’t necessarily a simple process, especially when we’ve been so heavily influenced by our messed-up society.
I promise, there are other options available – you don’t have to be controlled by the dangerous lure of exercise culture. I recommend checking out Adriene’s and Nicole’s YouTube channels if you haven’t already. I guarantee you’ll fall in love with them and their teaching styles.
From personal experience, my final advice is to respect your body. Try to understand it, care for it, communicate with it. Trust that it knows what it needs, that deep down, you know what you need. Don’t let any other person or idea convince you otherwise.