How Slow Wellness Has Worked For Me

March 17, 2023
Sierra Holder

Around this time last year I wrote a note to my self that I keep posted on my fridge. Every so often it’ll catch my eye and I’ll read a chunk of it. The last time I glanced at it I read part of it that said “ I want to move slow enough to feel every moment of my life.” Time is so fleeting and we often spend so much of it being excited for a time that hasn’t come yet, or maybe missing something that’s come and gone. The pace of the city pushes us, urges us to move faster and faster as we zoom passed each other on the sidewalk ( I literally feel like I’m merging on the highway when I walk sometimes #lifeinthefastlane.) Sometimes I get to my destination and I realize I don’t remember how I got there; Or someone will ask what I did yesterday or last week and I truly do not remember, I’m too caught up in what I have to do next week. Over and over again I realize my elevated nervous system (read anxiety) and my need for speed and productivity have been robbing me of chunks of time. It’s awful not to remember your life, to feel like you don’t have time for the people and places and experiences that make you feel good. To feel like you aren’t making any memories because you’re moving too quickly towards your big bright future. I’m still trying to figure out how to slow down, to soften, to move my body in a way that feels kind and expansive instead of gruelling. If you happen to be swimming in similar waters as I am, this is the digital space for you! 

Welcome to The Nice Reader, a space for us to connect about what moves us, scares us, what makes us feel successful or vulnerable. A reminder that this community is about more than pilates, and that pilates is about more than what’s on the mat. 

A good friend of mine was once really into a certain high intensity workout. She’d get up at the crack of dawn before this theatre show we were in and workout every single day. I remember thinking, “ gosh maybe one day I’ll get myself together enough to do that.” We were reminsicing about this time in our recent history and she mentioned how stressed out her body was. How much inflammation was popping up all over her body because it thought it was in danger. That’s something they don’t tell you about exercise when you’re growing up. I don’t remember anyone in my life talking to me about how I should approach building an active lifestyle, I just knew I was supposed to exercise. I don’t think I was ever taught to listen to my body in a holistic way. I , and I’m sure I’m not the only one, was sold this mind over matter approach to working out. “ When your body wants to stop keep going.” “pain is temporary, push past it.”  blah blah blah. I do understand encouraging people to be curious about their perceived  limits, I think it’s important to learn how to challenge ourselves and meet that comfortable edge. I do know though that so much of this messaging is rooted in fatphobia, ableism, and capitalist hyperproductivity. 

What happens if we move at a pace that is sustainable? What if hard work can also come with a sense of ease? Why is it that we feel as though a workout has to be throw-up -in-the- corner level hard in order for it to be worth it? 

I was reading an article about  the rise of “ Slow Wellness”, it talks about how to combat burnout and what constant high intensity workouts can do to our bodies and minds. Slow doesn’t necessarily mean you have to move like a glacier, but it does mean moving at a pace that honours the mind body connection. Moving consciously helps us keep both players in the game as much as we can, instead of feeling as though both mind and body aren’t playing for the same team. “ It’s about connecting mind and body, working out intuitively and tapping into the type of exercise your body needs in that moment, rather than aiming for standards set by fitness adverts and social media. Much like burnout shouldn’t be a badge of honour at work, collapsing in a heap after the gym and ignoring niggling injuries shouldn’t be either.” 

So how do we keep paying attention to what our bodies need from one moment to the next, when there are so many things that demand our focus?

  1. As an anxious person I’m realising that it’s important for me to feel like I have enough time. There is nothing like feeling as though you’re already dragging behind your day  from the moment you open your eyes. Lately I’ve been trying to start my day before my day starts, if that makes sense. I know I love to hit snooze in the morning so I set my alarm for a time that allows me to hit snooze and still be able to move at the pace I want to, drink my coffee, eat my breakfast, etc. before my other work or social priorities begin. I’m not always good at this but on the days where I make it happen I feel really great.
  2. Slow Sundays (or whatever day you have in the week that feels like a Sunday) I try to reserve at least one day a week or two days a month that I keep as only mine. I don’t schedule plans with friends or take an extra shift or fill the day up with to do’s just because I can. A day of nothing is not simply a day to be filled up, your free time is sacred and doesn’t need to be made available just because you have it.
  3. Stop. Holding. Your. Breath.  When I was having a ton of panic attacks my therapist said that in those moments I should always remember my breath. Our breath is our anchor, and it is sometimes the only thing we can control. I am shocked at how often I find myself holding my breath unknowingly. If you haven’t yet today  stop and take 3 deep breaths and do nothing else for that small moment. Some times it’s hard to commit to an entire breathwork session, but three deep breathes once everyday is a wonderful place to start.
  4. Write to yourself. This could look like journaling, but maybe once a month or once a year or once every six months sit yourself down with some tea and let yourself word vomit all over a page. No judgement, no rules, not even any need to read it back to yourself if you don’t want to ( though I think you should totally read it at least once.) Do this with friends, do it alone, but just let yourself spew without any sort of expectations. 
  5. Sunset Walks. As we move closer and closer to spring, and more quality time with the sun, a sunset walk is SO GOOD. Put on your headphones (or walk in silence), play music from a time in your life that felt simple and good, and walk around the side streets of your neighbourhood. The fiery orange lighting will teach you something I swear. Just trust me. Your life is a movie.

I’m realizing that the faster I move the harder it is to pay attention to all the messages my body is sharing with me and all of the things around me that want to show me how loved I am. When I’m moving at the speed of capitalism, I can only hear what’s screaming and nothing else.  My hope for all of our futures is that we can pay attention to our own bodies, and the world around us before the crisis. That’s what I love about pilates. You are moving slow enough to feel the shifts, slow enough to be in your body and do a workout instead of having to override your system in order to get through the class. I am very impressed by people who find joy in doing weighted hill sprints, into burpees, into a 10 minute plank. But personally my body thinks it’s in danger when I try and do those things and I’m wondering where I got the idea that I needed to find joy in that kind of movement. I love strength training, lifting weights is cool and makes me feel strong in a different way but,  where did I learn that moving my body is only valuable if its extreme. Wouldn’t building a healthy and consistent relationship with movement be easier if it felt good? Doable? Challenging but sustainable?

If high intensity work outs are your thing, I more than love that for you. I have had some really amazing transformative experiences in high intensity classes and I love the kind of challenge it gives me. I think in some way, it’ll always be a part of how I like to move my body. Every single one of us is different and our needs are always evolving, even minute to minute. In the same way a coach might push you to fight for that last rep, I hope that we can all encourage ourselves to fight for rest, fight to slow down and listen to our somatic needs. 

Once the Co-Star app was taking a break from being mean to me and said something like  “ pain is not the only measure of growth.” and I thought to myself… yeaaaahhhh why do I always believe things have to be so hard?

With Love and Gratitude,

Sierra (your new pilates bestie)