On the importance of exercise in times of isolation and social distancing: Moving Together Alone
‘We must be still and still moving’, TS Eliot, East Coker, Four Quartets
Firstly, we should start with the fact that whether you were active physically or not before this strange time we are living in, exercise does not fill the same function in our lives during the COVID-19 outbreak. So if after running to work and getting home late, you were too knackered to get off the sofa, or you’ve been religiously going to your running/ tennis/ cycle/ yoga club/ class, the times have changed a lot, and so will our relationship to our bodies. Thus if you were not active before and looked angrily at people going to the gym, or if you are a sporty person and looked angrily at those passing by the gym, time to put those differences aside. It is time we think of it as moving together alone.
Living in Strange Times
We are living in exceptional and strange times. We are living in times of heightened anxiety about our bodies. Every cough, change, slight fever alarms us. Which means we are more alert and have to take care of ourselves. Many of us will be burdened with multiple care responsibilities. Many of us will feel anxious about all these changes. The aim of this short blog is to offer some thoughts of how to move while being safe and looking after ourselves.
The main thing, is, of course, to keep safe. Follow social distancing rules and don’t put either yourself or other in danger. This is also not the time to challenge your body and get into extreme routines, but rather be gentle and caring to ourselves and others. Physical activity should be part of that.
First, exercise is good for our wellbeing, releases endorphins and is useful in combatting anxiety and depression. Mild exercises is also good to give resilience to the body (which feels very vulnerable right now!). Exercise cannot fulfill the social function it once had, but is vital more than ever, in addition to gloves, hand sanitizers etc. it is a way to give our bodies extra energies and focus.
What can we do?
First and foremost, walking. This is really the freest and safest way to move. Will never cost you a penny! Many of us were rushing to work and never took in our surroundings, now is the time, wherever you are. Be mindful to keep physical distance but this is also a good way to see other human beings.
The second option is do gentle exercise in your living room/ bedroom/ studio/ living space online. Many organisations are adjusting to this new situation and offering classes via online platforms such as zoom and Instagram. In an odd way this is an excellent time to experiment. I Always wanted to start yoga but didn’t want to be the only one in class not getting it? Now’s the time to try. It is really important to be safe and not challenge yourself too much—be gentle to yourself, sign up at an appropriate level, and be mindful of your body’s limits. Now is not the time to do the splits if you’ve never done it!
As a former dancer, I am amazed and overwhelmed by generosity of the dance community offering many resources online—some listed below, but you can experiment and search Instagram for yourself. Dance is the hidden language of the soul, wrote Martha Graham and no better time to nurture our spirits.
If you can, please donate to instructors and dancers. Freelancers are hit hard by this crisis, and this is a good way to both keep yourself going and supporting the art and sport community.
So whatever you do, keep safe, keep well, and keep moving!
Moving Together Alone
Dana Mills (in black) dancing while practicing social distancing
The beautiful dancers of Martha Graham Dance Company, truly athletes of god, are offering live streamed classes of various levels, check out updates in the company’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/marthagrahamdance/?hl=en
There are a variety of classes (including ones for children) via Paul Taylor dance company.
For other ideas on staying well and moving, check out Leyla’s blog on the Five Ways of Wellbeing during Coronavirus restrictions.
This guest blog is written by Dr. Dana Mills a lecturer in politics teaching a variety of courses from methods in IR to global political economy, history of political thought and feminist political theory at Oxford Brookes University. She is the author of Dance and Politics: Moving Beyond Boundaries published in 2016. Her next book Critical Lives: Rosa Luxemburg is due to be published 10 August 2020.