The Couch’s Allure – Transforming Your Exercise Mindset

A Shared Moment of Self-Discovery

In the vast expanse of the internet, where knowledge and experiences are freely exchanged, I found myself participating in an online community of female professionals–coaches, healers, and seekers of growth. Here, I shared a somatic video, “Welcome to Your Body This Morning,” with the hope that it would offer a moment of self-care on a leisurely Sunday.

The video’s invitation was simple: to greet the day with presence and awareness, starting on the floor, on a mat. Yet, the first response that greeted me was not one of shared enthusiasm but a practical concern about dust, a barrier between us and the grounding embrace of the earth.

This sparked a digital dialogue, a series of comments revealing a collective reluctance to engage with the videoed class. Voices echoed the sentiment that with age comes a need to recognize our physical boundaries, and few ventured to explore the movements offered.

As I observed the unfolding reactions, I was struck by the irony. A resource meant to guide us into a deeper connection with our bodies instead led to a reflection on the constraints we impose upon ourselves. The mats remained unrolled, the exercises unattempted, yet the conversation that emerged was rich for my consideration.

In this unexpected outcome, I found a poignant lesson: even in a space as boundless as the internet, our perceptions can create the most restrictive walls. And perhaps, the first step to transcending them is simply acknowledging their existence.

Fitness Self-Assessment

The ability to get up and down off the floor is a “Fitness Metric,” a way to assess your level of fitness. At what age would you think it’s appropriate to name as “too old” to change levels, to be able to sit on the grass? Of course, illness and disability can challenge anyone at any age, but what is the “new normal” here in the Western World?

In this third blog in our “Fitness and Embodiment” series, Episode 5 in the ongoing exploration of “Creating an Embodied World,” we consider ways to think about your fitness self-evaluation and issues people often encounter when embarking on an embodied fitness program.

The Chair Culture: A Reflection on Western Seating Habits

Chairs and desks and couches are landmarks of Western culture, structuring space with the plumb lines of office chairs and the draping curves of sofas. We sit on our perches all day long, at the breakfast table, then in the office cubicle, and finally, at home, in the arms of the living room.

This behavior is so ingrained in us that the very design of our homes and public spaces is geared toward encouraging us to sit elevated. Compare this to the Eastern tradition of sitting close to the ground – a practice that necessarily means adopting a different attitude toward the world.

In many Asian cultures, the floor is not porous and superficial, to be stepped over, but a place to lie, eat and share. It’s a place where your feet remain firmly on the ground, both literally and figuratively. There is no greater manifestation of this than the fact that, in many countries, sitting cross-legged on the floor is the default position.

Sitting on the floor is a philosophy in itself, it honors closeness to the earth, it conveys humility before nature, it emanates a spirit of community in which families and friends dine together and hear one another’s tales at the round level.

This dichotomy of postures is symbolic of larger cultural differences. Western “High” chairs position the individual on a pedestal, creating a sense of social and experiential separation, whereas the floor seating of the East fosters a sense of community and shared experience.

Perhaps, by bringing ourselves down to the level of the earth, we can lift ourselves up to new heights of understanding and connection.

The Perils of Prolonged Sitting

One of the reasons we don’t exercise enough to raise our level and be able to sit on the floor is that our culture is one of people sitting straight. But when we sit for a while, we’re not sitting for rest for our legs; we’re also unconsciously practicing a habit that has many consequences for our health.

Here’s my list:

Cardiovascular: It’s no surprise that this is one of the first organs to warn us that something is wrong. Your heart likes to move, and sedentary behavior is bad for your heart. You do nothing with an idle engine for too long – eventually, something’s going to give. And in this case, it’s your heart. Your blood pressure might go up and so might your heart troubles.

Metabolic and Mental Impact: The metabolism tends to get distorted when inactive for several hours. It can lead to weight gain as well.

However, when we sit for extended periods, we’re not just resting our legs–we’re also unknowingly engaging in a habit that could have several negative impacts on our health. Here’s a breakdown of potential risks:

Musculoskeletal Discomfort: Our entire musculoskeletal system is largely meant to be in motion – and when we no longer move, we can expect discomfort, especially in the form of back issues. It’s our body giving us feedback that our musculoskeletal system is not pleased with our sedentary choices.

Mental Health: But sitting down does more than affect our body. Our mind can take a knock, too, with an increased risk of mood disorders, such as depression in people who sit for prolonged periods.

Cancer Risks: The Cleveland Clinic reports that sitting for extended times during the day can raise the chance of developing cancers such as colon, uterine (endometrial), lung, and prostate cancer.

Lifespan Concerns: Smoking might not be the only habit shortening your lifespan. Adding regular physical activity to our daily routines is a highly effective strategy to reduce these health risks.

Stand up to take a call. Take a brisk walk. Just get up and stretch at regular intervals. Every little bit helps. It’s a sobering thought that adds urgency to the need for regular movement.

How Can I Asses My Fitness Now?

We can give ourself a self-assessment of our fitness level by considering:

Aerobic Capacity

What it is: Your body’s version of power-plant efficiency – how well your heart and lungs work together to fuel your muscles during exercise.

Self-assessment: You can test yourself with a simple yardstick: see how far you can run or walk in 12 minutes. The farther you can make it, the better your aerobic capacity.

Muscle Strength and Endurance

Definition: Muscle strength is the greatest force your muscles can generate. Endurance is how long your muscles can keep going before they throw up the white flag.

Self-Assessment: Take the push-up test for strength (how many you can do in a row) and the plank test for endurance (for how long). The plank is a core exercise where you hold your body straight, like a board, on your forearms and toes.


Definition: Flexibility is your body’s elasticity–how far your joints can range before sending you the memo of protest.

Self-Assessment: How far forward past your toes can you reach on the sit-and-reach test (sit with your legs straight out front and reach)?

Body Composition

Definition: Body composition is the ratio of your building blocks – how much of you is muscle, bone, and, well, not muscle.

Self-Assessment: Use a tape measure to get your waist circumference or a body composition scale to get your body fat percentage. A greater waist circumference might indicate a heightened likelihood of health complications associated with body fat.


Definition:  Balance is the ability to walk steadily and stand firmly, without any hint of unsteadiness or trembling.

Self-Assessment: Balance on one leg with your eyes closed. If you can withstand the wobbling for 30 seconds, you’re golden.


Definition: Coordination is the skill to move with precision and grace, whether gliding smoothly across a dance floor or catching and tossing a ball without difficulty.


Ball Toss

Face a wall about an arm’s length away. Toss a tennis ball against the wall and catch it with one hand, then the other.

Repeat 10 times with each hand.

Assessment: If you can catch the ball smoothly without fumbling, your hand-eye coordination is good.

Balance Beam Walk

Find a straight line on the floor or create one with tape. Walk along the line heel-to-toe for about 10 feet.

Assessment: If you can walk the line without stepping off, your balance coordination is on point.

Functional Fitness

Definition:  Functional Fitness is being able to do the things you need to do in your day-to-day life, like getting up from the floor without making ‘I’m troubled’ noises.

Self-Assessment: Time yourself getting up from sitting cross-legged on the floor. The faster and more elegantly you can do it, the better your functional fitness.

These self-assessments are only a starting point. They can be used to create fitness goals and track improvement. The most important thing is to listen to your body, but you may also want to seek the advice of a fitness professional before trying out any new exercises or tests.

The Symbiosis of Fitness Assessment and Embodied Exercise: A Path to Wholeness

Embodied exercise is a mindful engagement with physical activity; a way of paying attention and being fully present as we move. It involves checking in with how our body feels while performing exercises, rather than going through the motions.

When we engage in this practice, the benefits of exercise not only extend to our physical performance and development, but also become a pathway for cultivating our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Fitness assessments are the road signs on the route to fitness. They are specific measures that enable us to see where we are, to track our progress along the way, and to calibrate our workouts to where we are starting from and what we need.

When we integrate fitness assessments with embodied exercise, we get a powerful synergy that enables deep transformation. Here’s how the two can work together:


Periodic measurement helps us become more attuned to our fitness and, for example, allows us to practice embodied forms of exercise with embodied self-awareness about our strength, flexibility, and endurance.

Progressive but mindful

Monitor improvements via fitness assessments, we can mindfully adjust our workouts, stopping short of either overtraining or undertraining.

Holistic Health

Embodied exercise reminds us to listen to our bodies and let our bodies guide us. Fitness assessments provide the data we need to make informed choices and decisions about our health and fitness regimen.

Motivation and Reflection

Seeing tangible results from fitness assessments can be incredibly motivating. It encourages us to continue our embodied exercise practices with renewed vigor and commitment.

In essence, fitness assessments and embodied exercise are two halves of a whole. One provides the map, while the other guides us along the path, ensuring that every step we take is intentional and aligned with our overall well-being.

By engaging in both fitness evaluations and mindful physical activity, we begin a transformative journey that transcends mere physical enhancement, inviting us to explore and nurture the profound layers of our being.

Taking the First Steps

Embrace Activity as a Lifestyle

Exercise is a privilege that enhances our health and happiness. Start small, with achievable goals, and gradually build up your routine.

Incorporate Movement Naturally

Make movement a seamless part of your day. Take the stairs, stretch during breaks, and walk while chatting on the phone.

Celebrate the Immediate Rewards

Enjoy the instant boost in mood, energy, and sleep quality that comes with physical activity.

Discover Joy in Exercise

Explore various activities to find what you love. Dancing, hiking, or yoga–there’s an enjoyable exercise for everyone.

Build a Support Network

Seek out friends or online groups of people who are also trying to get fit; you can motivate and hold each other accountable.

Affirm Your Way There

Use positive affirmations to reinforce the joy of movement: “I am energized and alive with every step I take.”

Become educated about the dangers of inactivity

Understand the Risks of Inactivity

Educate yourself on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle to appreciate the importance of staying active.

Acknowledge Every Success

No victory is too small. Celebrate each achievement to build confidence and maintain momentum.

Understanding Exercise Anxiety

People who are feeling apprehensive about starting an exercise program might wonder how they would measure up–how might they do, what if others judge them, what if they injure themselves? Acknowledging these feelings as normal for someone about to embark on any new activity is the first step in overcoming them.

Step 1: Start Small. Choose exercises that feel manageable

If you’ve lost all your confidence in your physical abilities or had a long illness, then engaging in short, uncomplicated exercises with clear targets can help offset the anxiety that arises when you don’t know what to do next.

Having a plan can be a wonderfully empowering thing.

Celebrate your own progress. Set personal benchmarks; celebrate yourself for each step. The celebration is the same, whether the benchmark is greater or less than someone else’s goals.

Reward yourself as you make strides towards your goals, whether it be a small treat like a new book or a favorite activity. Rewarding yourself is a great way to relate exercise to a positive experience.

Visualize your success by imagining how your upcoming exertion will go well. You’ll feel more confident and experience less pre-exercise nervousness.

Seeking Support When Needed: If anxiety about exercise feels overwhelming, consider reaching out for professional advice. A therapist or a qualified fitness instructor can offer tailored strategies to help you move forward.

By integrating these approaches, you can begin to shift your perspective on exercise and start to view it as a positive and enriching part of your daily routine. Remember, the aim is to foster a supportive and encouraging mindset that promotes health and well-being through regular physical activity.

Look forward to the next Episode of “Creating an Embodied World,” when I’ll provide some very useful exercise tips for maximizing your embodied fitness effort!

If you’re having difficulty facing exercise but do want to embrace fitness, join Bonnie in The Wellness Universe Lounge for Your Radiant Summer: Transforming Your Exercise Mindset,” a 7-week Intensive Transformative Course with a blend of introspection and energizing activity beginning Wednesday, May 29th, at 7:00 pm ET, with a bonus 2-week ‘check-in/re-set’ in September:

To participate in a Free Masterclass followed by a Q & A and open discussion about Embodiment, Somatics, and the growing interest in the Mind-Body connection, join Bonnie on Saturday, May 11th, at 11am ET, 8 am PT in The Wellness Universe Lounge for “Creating an Embodied


Can Sitting Too Much Increase Cancer Risk?

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3 thoughts on “The Couch’s Allure – Transforming Your Exercise Mindset”

  1. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any suggestions for beginner blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

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