Conscious Moves

Exercising is Optional, Moving is Essential

By Heath and Nicole Reed
[Savvy Self-Care]

Approximately 22 years ago …
Nicole: Do you want to go for a walk with me?
Heath: Sure. Where do you need to go?
Nicole: Nowhere. I just want to go for a walk around the neighborhood.
Heath: (perplexed, with a look of confusion) Why?
Nicole: (beaming her ear-to-ear smile) Because it feels good to walk!

Everything is moving. From the cosmic whirling of galaxies to the microscopic shape-shifting of electrons transforming from waves to particles, our world is in constant flux. Even if we hold our breath and appear to be motionless, our heart continues to beat, our cells are endlessly dying and being reborn in infinite chemical exchanges, and, let’s face it, every second we’re alive we move closer to death. Indeed, death is the ultimate nonmovement.

“Movement is Life!”—Moshe Feldenkrais
How do you imagine the arc of your aging process? Do you envision your body aging like an old stinky cheese? Or, can you imagine your body and mind aging like a fine bottle of wine? We choose the bottle of wine! Moving is an essential ingredient to enhancing our physical and cognitive resources, boosting our creativity and capacity to connect. And when we add the bonus feature of moving with intentionality, we generate greater aliveness, delight, and pleasurable feelings of well-being.
Simple movements like walking improve and coordinate all the major systems of our bodies: musculoskeletal, neurological, endocrine, enteric, immune, and beyond. Moving improves our quality and quantity of life. Movers don’t get as sick or injured as more sedentary folks, and they live longer.1 The good news for us massage therapists is that we get to enjoy the numerous physiological health benefits of moving because of our profession. Excellent choosing, friends.
Not only does moving improve our longevity and physiological well-being, moving our bodies plays a major role in how we learn, connect with others, and feel. Thinking and learning does not exclusively take place in our heads. The mind and body are inseparable, as demonstrated by the “brain in our gut”: we have more nerve cells in our small intestine than in our brain. Indeed, our body is our brain.2 Likewise, our body reflects the ever-changing formations of thoughts, ideas, and dreams and the continuous rising and falling tides of all our feelings and e-motions.3 See? Even our feelings are in motion!

“Our Bodies Vibrate to the Frequency of Our Thoughts and Feelings.”—Jeff Martens
It’s not just important to move—it’s just as valuable to consciously choose our intention for why we move. We used to be motivated to move for the purpose of producing external results: rehabbing from an injury, increasing flexibility, losing weight, or getting something done. Over time, we’ve flipped the script. Instead of chasing externally driven results, we are now choosing to move from an intention to generate internal benefits. When we move from an intentional inner space, we build more trust and confidence in our body, experience greater possibilities of what we can accomplish, and, in general, feel more at home in our skin. As everyday conscious movers, we experience greater ease, flow, and joy from the inside out.
Conscious moving is an inside job.What if you choose to move for the sake of generating internal, rather than external, results? You could choose to move for the pure pleasure and enjoyment of moving ... for the feeling of ease and grace of being in your body. Conscious moves are investments of time and attention for the purpose of expanding our joy factor!

Moving for Pleasure

A newer field of kinesthetic science advocates “nonexercise physical movement” (NEP), which provides similar physical and psychological benefits as exercise. NEPs are easy moves you can infuse throughout your day. Lately, we’ve been investing more time with family and friends on leisurely outings like bike rides, dog walks, flying kites, on swings, and on paddle boards. These NEPs generate a positively reinforcing loop where we move more and feel better—and we feel better and move more. What are some easy moves or NEPs you enjoy doing solo, with a friend, or with loved ones?

Spiraling to Smiling

Science demonstrates that conscious movements impact our thoughts and feelings, and vice versa. According to Michale Slepian’s research, creating fluid, circular movements in our bodies enhances more fluid and creative thoughts.4 These are different than the usually forward-moving patterns that occur along the sagittal plane. Consider boosting your creativity index by exploring fluid circular movements like hula-hooping, belly dancing, tai chi, and Zumba. Experiment with circular patterns as you allow your body to flow, dance, and explore throughout your day. Next time you’re at a stoplight, let your fluid fingers paint the air around you, or the next time you are facilitating a release of tension in someone’s body, choose to move your own jaw, neck, or shoulders in circles and spirals.
Embodied cognition is the idea that “the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, and the form of our body also triggers our mind.”5 Embodied cognition redefines the interrelated role of our brain and body. The brain, while important, is not the only resource we have available to us to generate behavior and see results. How we move and shape our posture directly impacts our physiological states.6 Richard E. Petty, former professor of psychology at Ohio State University, sums it up this way: “Happiness leads to smiling and smiling leads to happiness.”
On our numerous trips to Thailand, we’ve noticed the locals love to smile. In fact, there is such a cultural emphasis on smiling that the Thai language has 13 words to describe different types of smiles. Smiling is one of our favorite conscious moves. It creates a cascade of endorphins and is contagious for all those we connect with. By the way, smiling also encourages curvy movements of the muscles around your face.

Moving Works of Art

Since the 1970s, physical activity has decreased by 32 percent in the United States.7 We’re not sharing this statistic to motivate you to move out of anxiety or dread. Rather, in our revolutionary campaign to befriend our bodies, we wonder if you’d be willing to generate conscious moves from an intention of creating the most delightful and pleasurable kinesthetic possibilities? We’re talking about moving not for the sake of fixing, aligning, looking a certain way, or weighing a certain number (although these are all reliable side effects of moving). Instead, would you be willing to be a conscious mover simply because it feels good?
We believe you can live your entire life without ever doing an “exercise” and still be healthy. Instead, consciously move every day to age gracefully. As conscious movers, we invite you to grow and refine your craft and approach life like a master artist. Consciously creating and benefiting from living your life as though you are a moving, breathing, work of art—inspired by pleasure and delight. Imagine how you would feel if you interspersed more spiraling, smiling, and pleasurable motions throughout your day? And, would you be willing to create fun, conscious moves every day to expand your experience of feel-good feelings?


1. Arthritis Foundation, “12 Benefits of Walking,” accessed February 2018,; National Institutes of Health News in Health, “Can You Lengthen Your Life?” June 2016, accessed February 2018,  
2. Michael D. Gershon, The Second Brain (New York: Harper Perennial, 1999).  
3. Srini Pillay, “How Simply Moving Benefits Your Mental Health,” Harvard Health Publishing (blog), March 28, 2016, accessed February 2018,
4. M. L. Slepian and N. Ambady, “Fluid Movement and Creativity,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (2012): 625–629,
5. Vivian Giang, “The Surprising and Powerful Links Between Posture and Mood,” Fast Company, January 30, 2015, accessed February 2018,
6. Amy Cuddy, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are,” TED Talk at TEDGlobal 2012,
7. “Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda,” Designed to Move (2013): 2,

Heath and Nicole Reed are cofounders of Living Metta (living “loving kindness”) and want everyone in the world to enjoy the experience of befriending their body. The Reeds lead workshops and retreats across the country and overseas, including Thailand and Mexico, and have been team-teaching touch and movement therapy for 16 years. In addition to live classes, the Reeds offer massage therapy and self-care videos, DVDs, and online trainings, which may be found online at