The Unadulterated True Story … Of Exercise
Health Matters

The Unadulterated True Story … Of Exercise

By Tracey Stover

The extraordinary gift of a human body. It affords us many experiences, and supports our happiness. As a Buddhist, we believe a human body is as rare as a 200-year-old turtle that surfaces the ocean once every hundred years that, as it comes to the surface, pokes its head through an oxen yoke floating by. Needless to say, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

Our human bodies are precious because, in a human form, we can achieve full awareness. Exercise is one of the five pillars of health; an essential prescription for well-being versus a lifestyle choice. 

In the West, we agree that exercise is important. Movement for the body is as essential as breath, water, and food. If we become sedentary, be it in front of a computer or television, the body is equally stressed. The breath becomes shallow and the body anaerobic; dis-ease thrives in a low-oxygen environment. 

The immediate benefits of moderate exercise are improved sleep, reduced feelings of anxiety, and lowered blood pressure. Some long-term benefits that accrue as we sustain physical activity in our life include brain health; exercise reduces the risk of dementia and depression. For heart health, exercise reduces heart disease, strokes, and type 2 diabetes. For cancer, many cancers thrive in a low-oxygen environment, exercise is the simple antidote for maintaining high levels of oxygen. In terms of overall benefits, you maintain a healthy weight, bone strength, and balance coordination as you age. The immune system is also stimulated by daily movement, improving circulation, and thus lymph flow.

Find ways you enjoy moving: dance, swim, hike, walk around the block for 30 minutes, or do short bursts of exercise. A minimum of 10 minutes of getting the heart rate elevated daily reduces the risk of premature death by 72%. It should include stretching, joint flexibility, muscle-strengthening, and cardiovascular activity. Working out at the gym is fun, but no need to wait for the gym. Stretch your calves leaning against your desk, stand on your toes waiting for the bus, this strengthens legs and improves balance. Rotating your ankles, wrists, and neck maintain flexibility; walking up and down a flight of stairs for 10 minutes on your daily walk gets your heart rate up. Be creative, weave intentional movement at any time and anywhere.

A flexible body helps to maintain a flexible mind. Gently explore where your body is tight or stressed; these are places that need your attention. Tension, pain is how the body talks to us. Are we listening, or do we power through? Sharp pains can indicate something acute, while soreness lets us know to reduce the intensity of our practice and to increase blood flow to sore areas without causing more tissue breakdown. Reduce the intensity by reducing your range of movements. Be patient and gentle with yourself. Stretch using approximately 70% of your capacity. This gives your body the opportunity to increase capacity without making the recovery time extensive. 

Since there are no spare bodies lying around, how we live matters. Because, once we experience the bodies’ breakdown, we instantly realize how precious it is. Instead, let’s proactively choose ease, grace and flexibility.

This was my experience. During the pandemic, I sat excessively in front of my computer. It matters that I am in my mid-50s. My feet went purple – bad circulation – my mid-back tension increased, and I knew if I did not do something drastically different, this would not have a good result. 

Recently, I took up Vinyasa yoga and regained much suppleness, putting me on the road to recovery. Bodies maintain memory, and having an active practice helped my body regain its flexibility. 

Our bodies reflect the greatest stars in heaven. We are all pulsating, expanding, and contracting. We join the gentle, rhythmic pulsation of life with our breath; it begins with an inhale and ends with an exhale. The time in between is to be cherished – no two moments are alike. Be kind and listen to your body, reach for the stars as you stretch, and sport a smile when you encounter tension. Don’t give up! Your body is the precious organism that allows you to attain your goals and awareness.

May 8, 2023

About Author

tracey Tracey Stover, MA maintains a breath practice in Seattle and on Vashon. She facilitates private sessions, group classes, and trains others. She has worked facilitating breath for over 20 years, and is Dharma Acharya Instructor of the Dzogchen Buddha Path, maintaining a local sangha and teaching online. Tracey is committed to helping all beings navigate the passage between breath and thinking, to ultimately realize their true nature. You can learn more about Tracey’s work at or contact her at