Listen to our contributors describe the importance of physical activity to our emotional as well as physical condition, and about the importance of creating safe and inclusive environments for movement. Movement is not just about becoming fit and looking a certain way – it is central to the way we navigate our daily lives. Everyone is capable of moving more often, regardless of skill level or body type. Believing that movement is ‘for us’ is the first step towards changing our routines. However, movement spaces and exercise classes still tend to be catered towards white, able-bodied individuals, so there is work to be done in creating environments where everyone feels welcome and free to move in new ways. Feeling safe is directly related to how we move our bodies, as it allows for enough quietness to hear what our bodies really need. In this way, moving our bodies is tied not only to body awareness, but also creative engagement with that awareness. This engagement comes from finding movement that we truly enjoy. Being in this state of enjoyment can lead to mental and physical alignment, or ‘flow states.’ Moving the body is thus one avenue towards learning how to be deeply present. 

How Physical Activity Promotes Wellbeing

Dr. Sabiston discusses the physiological reasons behind the benefits of physical activity. Movement affects our brains and create more positive emotions, and also realigns the human body with the activities it was meant for. Dr. Sabiston also mentions the benefits of pairing mindfulness and physical activity, which helps to maximize the benefits of each practice. 

Physical Activity and Mental Health on Campus

Dr. Sabiston talks about a 6-week physical activity program that she hosts on campus for students. Students often have assumptions about what types of activity they have to do, or what skills they need. The goal of the program is to teach them about the wide variety of possible ‘movement contexts’ you can partake in.

Intersections between Race, Space, and Movement

Dr. Joseph invites the listener to consider how “every space that we are occupying has been constructed be someone.” She speaks about the politics of space, pointing to the ways that gyms, parks and other outdoor spaces for leisure and wellness continue to be funded and created by and for white people, to the exclusion of Black, Indigenous and other marginalized communities. She also speaks about the importance of creating inclusive spaces that allow for other forms of expression, noting that feeling safe and included in a space allows for freedom of movement and self-expression. Dr. Joseph describes her research with student athletes, coaches and sports administrators about experiences of racism and anti-racist resistance.  

Building Community Through Movement

Dr. Joseph talks about The Sister Insiders, a graduate student group comprised of racialized women who share an interest in sport, leisure and kinesiology as well as equity, anti-racism and feminism. She describes how she incorporates embodied learning in her classes, including challenges she has encountered in engaging students who are resistant to movement practices and/or who feel threatened by the high pressure, evaluative culture at the University of Toronto.  

The Value of Intense Sensory Experience

Dr. Farb explains how engaging in an intense experience can help to interfere with our ‘default mode network’ by breaking us out of mental habits. We fall into habits very easily because our brains prioritize efficiency, but this can lead to overthinking and a lack of ‘spaciousness’ in our lives. Intense experiences can have this re-set effect even without further reflection, but we do need to reflect upon our experiences and bring some intentionality to them if we want to use them to learn more about ourselves. Lastly, Dr. Farb discusses how intense sensory experiences can get us into ‘flow states,’ which happen when our expectations align with what we are experiencing. 

Some Basic Qigong Practices

Jacqueline describes qigong as ‘dynamic meditation’ or ‘mindfulness in motion.’ She then leads us through a few different qigong practices. 

When We Don’t Feel Like Being Active

Dr. Sabiston emphasizes the importance of taking advantage of the small moments when we do want to move, even if it is only briefly. It is also important to use mindfulness to assess how you feel after times when you do physical activity, to help build an understanding of its positive effects. We can utilize our self-understanding to create routines that work best for us. Getting in touch with intrinsic reasons for engaging in movement (i.e., doing movement that we enjoy) and being kind to ourselves is key. 

Selected resources for learning more

Thomas Quarmby, Rachel Sandford, Rachael Green, Oliver Hooper & Julie Avery (2021) Developing evidence-informed principles for trauma-aware pedagogies in physical education, Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2021.1891214

A short five-session playlist on Qigong Regulatory Movements with Donna Oliver, Instructor, Tai Chi and Meditation Centre, with Dr. Frances Garrett, was recorded in 2020, sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies.

An introduction to Hara Breathing Therapy, the warm-up movements for which are based on Qigong practice, with Instructor (T’agyol) Daniel Adler R.Ac, together with Dr. Frances Garrett, was recorded in 2020, sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Centre for Buddhist Studies.

Sport for development” – Simon Darnell and Janelle Joseph from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education discuss their research into sport as a tool for development.

Gauthier, V., Joseph, J. & Fusco, C. (2021). Lessons from Critical Race Theory: Outdoor Experiential Education and Whiteness in Kinesiology, Journal of Experiential Education, 1-17: This article explores Whiteness, racialization, and Indigenous erasure in outdoor experiential education as an undergraduate curricular practice at a Kinesiology program in a Canadian university.

A 2022 presentation by Dr. Joseph on ” Race, Ethics, and Intersectional Social Justice in Kinesiology” offers a detailed and sophisticated overview of how coloniality and racism impact our understanding of movement and embodiment.