We all know exercise is important for maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body. But the kind of exercise you do is just as important to your health because exercise can either reduce or add to your overall stress load. It all depends on your state of health and your internal balance.
You may notice that sometimes exercise is energizing and other times you feel exhausted afterwards. This is because exercise moves your Qi. Your Heart pumps your blood faster, you breathe more air through your Lungs, Qi is moving! If your Qi is stuck, moving it is good and you feel better. If your Qi is weak, moving it will make you feel worse.
If your Qi is stuck, exercise will break through the stagnation and get things moving and flowing again, thus energizing you. Stagnant Qi can present emotionally as stress, depression, short temper or irritability. Physically it may present as tight neck and shoulders, headache, fatigue, TMJ, PMS and sighing (just to name a few symptoms). When you exercise it can often relieve many of these symptoms, thus reducing stress and making you feel better.
If you fall into the Stagnant Qi category, your exercise should be more vigorous, like running, biking, swimming, dancing, jumping rope, intense hiking, vigorous yoga (astanga, vinyasa, power), cross-country skiing, you get the picture. Get your sweat on an move your Qi!
However, if you feel more tired after exercise, it may mean that your Qi is weak, and that the exercise you are doing is depleting you further. In this case, the exercise is actually INCREASING stress your are straining your system to keep up your current pace. Qi weakness can present as fatigue, lack of appetite, lack of motivation, lower back ache, loose stools or constipation, weak voice, among other symptoms. In this case, the exercise you choose should have more of a restorative quality to it to improve your Qi, which will then reduce your stress.
If your Qi is weak, your exercise should be more restorative, like Tai Chi, Qi Gong, gentle yoga (svaroopa, restorative, hatha), walking/strolling, these types of things. Or you enjoy more vigorous exercise, just do it in much shorter spurts, like 5-10 minutes once or twice a day depending on how depleted you are. Play with how you feel after exercise and gauge how your body responds. Focus on eating good foods (see last month's entry: Save Yourself from Stress Part 1--Food) and getting sufficient rest.
For those of you who see exercise as drudgery, selecting the right exercise for you can help. Exercise is about making you healthy, it shouldn't be just about losing weight or getting six-pack abs. When you focus on the external result, you miss the internal benefits. If you focus on the internal benefits, you may also get the external results, but in the end it won't matter, because you will feel better. Exercise should be fun, something you look forward to. If you enjoy it, you will stick with it. And it doesn't have to be in a gym for it to count.