Your body already knows what science keeps on proving — that movement is medicine. LifeWork sat down with transformational-movement teacher Zuleikha to find out just how crucial a role it plays in both our physical and emotional well-being.
LIFEWORK Could you explain the benefits of movement?
ZULEIKHA In my write-ups for all my workshops, retreats, and outreach programs, I always make sure to say that the work is open to everyone, for those who are well and those who are healing.
Any little movement can encourage the mind to open, the body to relax, and the blood to flow. Relief is something everyone wants, but we might feel as if we are not built to do a certain kind of movement, and so reject the idea.
Anyone who enjoys moving, however, knows that it can free up the heart, and the body follows.
Often when I enter an office where people are at their computers, furiously trying to meet a deadline, and I ask if they would like to spend 5 minutes to experience some relief, they tend to resist the idea of stopping, taking the time.
So I ask them, “What is hurting you today?”
They usually have a lot to say to that. Too much sitting brings stiffness. Too much screen-time makes the joints lock. I show them simple, easy, effective movements they can do. Initially, they are embarrassed, but afterward, I often hear things like, “I have more energy.” And “I wasn’t expecting to feel relief.”
So part of it is about loosening up the way we think. When people try these little things, at first they can feel embarrassed, but the funny thing is, they usually start to smile, then laugh.
LIFEWORK You are well-known for helping people improve their health and better manage chronic stress and trauma — how does movement help us heal?
ZULEIKHA There’s a kind of sunshine that comes through the art of movement. The work I do is one of the ways that I can spread that and help others. Movement can bring immense relief to people, relief from the stress of being human, and it can open all of us to the wonder of life.
I say a lot that “movement is medicine.” It’s not a cure for the problem, but if you explore it, practice it regularly, even for a moment, it can help.
What I do is to break down simple movements, sharing with people ways to move easily through the joints. This leads into fluid full-body movement. You don’t have to know anything to experience what the body already knows; you allow it to lead the way.
After people use movement exercises that I’ve created, whether they are practicing them for general self-care or for palliative cancer care, they very often feel a sense of relief — a sense of calm abiding often arises.
LIFEWORK Tell us about the workshop, Emotional Freedom, that you’ll be leading here at LifeWork. The description says that participants will “experience and celebrate the freedom that emerges when you move your body freely and without planning.”
ZULEIKHA Movement is a way to move through how we are feeling — whatever that feeling is. We start with where we are — anger, sorrow, joy — and we begin simply to move. Nothing necessarily fancy. The body likes to flow. Some days it likes to jump. Sometimes we want to jump but our body can’t move. Instead we move a hand — and even that outward movement can change how we feel, can bring us relief, or joy, or hope.
If someone is broken-hearted, they might physically look a bit wilted, the body contracted in a crumpled sort of way. How will freedom come if we are contracted? It will seem impossible to feel full of heart when you are feeling disheartened. But movement can lead to a feeling of loosening up.
Knowing how to create this shift helps us to walk through the unknown, something we all have to do, every day. Through this workshop, and all the others I teach, I lead participants in an experience — using practices they can do anywhere, anytime — to cultivate a life where, in the midst of the chaos, they can nurture their loving nature. They can bring themselves a feeling of relief, and ease, and goodness.