It's "winter" here in the United States. Some of you live in the warmer climates and won't be affected and therefore have no excuse NOT to get outside everyday! But for some of us, who live in the colder climates, areas hard hit by the recent Jonas blizzard, and regions that experience harsh winters...it can be easy to stay inside, by the warm pellet stove or fireplace.
January is almost over, and February is fast approaching. This February, I'd like to invite you to a challenge. The challenge is called Freedom February. And this is why...
Adventuring outside, exploring nature, exploring your town on foot, bicycling the beach, hiking the parks, beach yoga, park yoga, paddleboarding the nearby canals & marshes, hiking a scenic mountain trail, participating in your community's 5k....that's what freedom is all about!
A daily habit of exercising is healthy, but each workout should have meaning. Planned exercise should be meditative for mental health & clarity in addition to improving your physical fitness. The first Freedom February goal is to re-program your brain and the emotions that are attached to exercise. When you exercise, you should feel like you are exercising your freedom.
There is nothing wrong with monotonous treadmill running, mindless weight lifting, or torturous fitness classes…or wait, is there? Yes.
For example, when yoga (asana) practice is performed daily with the right intention, it is what I like to call, a form of "holistic fitness" that frees your mind & body.
But what is "right intention"? It’s when the focus is on the journey, when you are truly in the moment, in the NOW. "Wrong intention" is when the focus of your exercise practice is to achieve a posture, while "right intention" would focus on getting into a posture as a means to meditate and be at peace and feel that connection with divinity, that freedom from everything in life that pulls you down. For any type of planned exercise activity, your motivations should not involve the craving of 'worldly things'; such as impressing others, getting 6 pack abs, competition with your fellow fitness partners, doing it just because its part of a training plan, or to be ‘skinny’… come on! That’s not living…that's not freedom. You're not alone, we're all "guilty" of this.
THE FIRST GOAL of the Freedom February challenge is to change this mentality. Here is a list of some "right intentions" or motivations to get you started (feel free to add your own!)
"My Planned Exercise Activity will":
- Help me feel good
- Make me feel alive
- Help me feel energized again
- Help me feel healthy & rejuvenated
- Make me feel like I'm a part of nature, the community, the universe
- And above all, help me feel a connection with my higher power
Yoga, like many other fitness activities, strengthens & tones your muscles and improves your cardiovascular ability so that you can get outside and enjoy life to its fullest. It’s meditative so you can approach each day with clarity, eagerness and unconditional love for yourself & others. It’s an amazing stress reliever. And, if you’re practicing yoga with the right intentions, you will feel that connection with a higher power. During yoga practice there is a time for reflection; reflection of self, the world, and being at peace... oh, and FREEDOM too.
YOUR SECOND GOAL for Freedom February is to find yourself a planned exercise activity that you will practice with the "right intentions". You can choose more than one activity. For example, I focus on yoga primarily, but each day my preference can vary slightly or drastically. Some days I have an overwhelming desire to breathe in the fresh ocean air so I take my yoga to the beach and other days I have this surge of energy where I just feel freedom sprinting along the beach (and I bring my dog too, she loves those days). Other days, taking a long exhilarating bike ride or meditative stand-up paddleboard session are in the books for me or sometimes just having a fun jump roper session...again, all outdoor activities, all activities creating that sense of freedom within, and all activities that I'm doing with the "right intention".
And finally, YOUR THIRD GOAL for Freedom February is to spend at least 15 minutes outside everyday doing a planned exercise activity (taking a walk, bike ride, or doing sun salutations on your porch for example). Free yourself from the confines of your home or office space and venture out into the unknown. Do something you never do, like play tennis or hoops at the school around the corner. Just do something that you REALLY enjoy doing outside. Go rollerblading, play fetch with your dog or build a snowman with your daughter.
To sum things up..... if your experience is similar to mine...your Pinterest feed is most likely full of pins about 'how to' get flat stomachs or a toned booty...all because Pinterest noticed that you showed an interest in health & fitness. Social media (or really any media) brainwashes us into thinking happiness lies just around the corner of getting six pack abs, the thigh gap (come on really?) and a toned butt. Consciously or subconsciously. Hence the reason your motivations to workout are focused around the physique...
I want to offer you freedom from this detrimental mentality. There is too much emphasis on the physical, don’t fall prey to the monotonous treadmill routine and weight lifting program in which your end goal intention is to be thinner, build bigger muscles, impress others, or to get a "bikini body". Please, for your own sake, take a more spiritual approach to fitness and your eyes will be opened to a whole new world. You will look forward to exercise as a time to zone out and reflect on the day, your inner self, your thoughts, your morals & your higher power so that you can live a more present, valuable & inspirational life. Exercise should be calming not agitating. Exhilarating, not forced (consciously or subconsciously). When you're exercising, ask yourself, "Do I feel alive?" "Am I just 'getting through' this workout so that I can get on with the rest of the errands and fun things I want to do today?". You should be smiling while you're exercising, laughing, & enjoying it... and hoping it won't end anytime soon. I know that is hard to contemplate, but just work through the three goals of this challenge this month and you will get closer to "enlightened exercise".
Remember, in the end it will not matter how you looked in that bikini, will it? Nope! What will matter is how you lived, with love for others and yourself. How you have left behind a dynamic legacy that will somehow help future generations in a positive way. THAT, my friends, is what will matter. So approach your physical fitness activities with love and you will see how truly uplifting & moving a workout can be!
If you want to join us in our challenge, you can follow us on Instagram @thebraveangels where we will be posting our daily outdoor activities as well as following our fellow Freedom February Challenge participants on their journey for a healthier & more joyful approach to exercise! You can also participate by posting a pic or video of your outdoor activities on Instagram and also tagging @thebraveangels in your post and adding hashtag #FreedomFebruary. At the end of the month we will choose (at random) a participant as a winner. The winner will get to choose one free tank top from our Brave Angel Shop OR a doggie tank top from our Redemption Dog Shop (winner's choice)!