In the BellaSol community class that I teach, I have a regular participant who frequently takes a nap or a quiet respite during various times throughout class. The first time it happened I wondered if she was okay. After talking with her I found out it was simply what she did rather then pushing herself as she had in the past.

Big burly bears do it. They know when enough is enough and they rest. In fact most animals will only sustain bursts of energy for short periods followed with long periods of rest. Why is it that we push ourselves so hard, engaging in long sustained vigorous exercise practices to the point of exhaustion?

We are busy ‘doing” life. Rest is continuously pushed aside until we collapse. Coffee, caffeine enhanced drinks become our sustenance for energy. When I adopted the new habit of eating an increased amount of “live” foods and reducing my daily consumption of coffee (caffeine) to a minimum, I have realized how I had been masking how tired I was with caffeine. Now I am discovering how I need to add more rest filled moments into my day. It is well known that we tend to overexert and overdo. The American population works too hard, plays too hard, gets too little exercise or too much. Certainly we want to promote a more active lifestyle but is it really good or possible to promote the Boot Camp fitness mentality over the long term? Perhaps this is okay if we remember to balance rest and activity. As widely discussed in articles on Chinese Medicine and energy renewal, if we don’t take time to rest and restore, over time, our life force reserves get drained and we find ourselves barely able to get through the day.

In addition to more traditional exercise, I enjoy the rhythmic multi-layered dance that I do. I love to turn on the music and dance – arms in the air and feet moving. It doesn’t look like anything you will find on Dancing with the Stars but you will see me smiling big and sweating a lot. When I am done, I have been danced and all is right in my world. Yet, I find that as I get a little older, I need to balance the stimulation of the dance and traditional exercise with a more inward directed focus and relaxation cultivation awareness. This allows me to sustain what I love to do without exhausting my energy reserves.

In mind body classes, such as yoga, the body is to remain in rested alertness. The moves, at times, dynamic and fiery like life. The student is encouraged to always seek the place of internal calm, even as the body experiences outward stress. In a dance-based or traditional exercise class one can cultivate that same awareness. It isn’t only in yoga or Tai Chi that we discover how to move fluidly with dynamic stillness. The question is how do we cultivate dynamic ease and inner calm when we participate in any vigorous exercise practice?

Joyful Exercise into Every Day Life

Of course one simple method that is easy to forget in a culture that promotes the next fitness trend, is to find exercise practices that bring you joy and support sustainable daily exercise. Housecleaning and gardening as well as playing outdoors are surefire ways to add exercise to your life that can be both fun and energy revitalizing. Any exercise you do that you want to do because it is fun will rebuild your life force and support the concept of rest while exercising. I didn’t like working out in a studio; inside four walls when the weather outside was beautiful for a hike. My personal trainer at the time, reminded me that there is always an opportunity to incorporate a full body workout while hiking. I found myself picking up stones, squatting to look at things on the ground and doing lunges off a rock face. Even while walking downtown, I could always find a wall to do wall squats on. I took a group of high school kids on a downtown city walk and the amount of places we discovered to incorporate muscle strengthening and cardio conditioning were amazing. We had fun and found opportunity to de-stress. The kids were relaxed and energized for the rest of the day. They learned that the excuses they used for not moving and exercising were non-existent when you learned how to have fun and bring exercise into your everyday life.

The Power of Breath

When I was trained in the Nia Technique and now as I teach the BellaSol Dance Fusion class, I learned about and experienced the power of the breathe to create a sense of inner calm. Full, deep breaths will relax the body and allow one to build an inner and outer strength while remaining calm inside. We all know the feeling we experience when holding our breath; the tightness and constriction. Or when you take short shallow breaths and you feel that slight agitation. When you breathe fully and deep you relax and open up. Even in aerobic exercise you can regulate your breathe to control the stress being felt in the body. I also learned the importance of making sound to release tension, the common ordinary exhale with an audible sigh or even a hoop and a holler releases stress and tension. This may not be something you are comfortable doing while working out in a gym, but you hear a lot of grunting when those weights are lifted, so instead why not a sigh after you finish your set of weights.

Set a Focus

Setting a focus takes your mind off the daily stress of your day. Setting a focus allows you to be present with what you are engaging in at this moment. When you are present with what you are doing and the sensations of your body, you can experience the same benefits of relaxation and rejuvenation as one does when in a non-moving meditation. It isn’t only for slow Tai Chi style exercises; it is in everything you do. Choose a focus, for example: to notice tension in your body. You will be given new information on ways to exercise that will leave you feeling better then if you worked out while reading the newspaper.

Permission to Rest

Know when enough is enough and do less; lighten the load for a while. Take it easy, you will return feeling refreshed and ready to continue what you were doing with new energy. Discuss it with your trainer ahead of time. Let them know that you want to rest more to achieve more. They may find it inspiring to create a program that incorporates longer rest periods throughout. Or, if you are in the middle of a high powered aerobic based class and you experience tiredness, remember to breathe, change your moves (smaller moves, fewer arm moves) and learn how to give yourself permission to stand off to the side and rest. This does not mean you won’t get fit, or that you failed, it means you will be cultivating fitness of your life force. You will achieve an exercise lifestyle that you can sustain over the long haul.


The other day I took myself to a dance gathering. It was an hour of free spirited self-guided dance which I love. Midway through there I was on the floor, resting. It was amazing. I laid there, my eyes were soft, the music was playing and my spirit soared. I was resting. I wasn’t dancing – the pause happened. Unplanned and moved only when I felt called, I found myself cascading over the floor with renewed energy, breathing, reaching and twirling. I released any judgments about whether or not I was doing enough. I was moving freely, energized, renewed and ready to take on the rest of my day. I left knowing that I would be back and have continued to bring the energy of rest into more and more of my exercise experiences. Not only did my body rest but my heart and soul was renewed.

Author's Bio: 

Licensed WellCoach, Cert. Nia Technique Instructor and creator of "Moving in the Now". wellcoaches/