Tuesday, July 02 2019

Rhythmic movement, stretching and yoga all flow together in this intuitive fitness program designed to improve range of motion, joint mobility and balance.  Move forcefully, move gently – honor your body and choose whatever movement feels good.  AEA Training Specialist, Jackie Lebeau, reminds us that exercise activities should be enjoyable and adjusted on a daily basis to reflect how the body feels.  This video, Aqua Zen Flow, includes an audio download to guide you through your own intuitive exercise experience in the pool.

An aging population, along with a surge in high intensity and high impact programming has led many fitness enthusiasts to reconsider their approach to exercise.  Many people, including yours truly, have been regimented in daily visits to the gym for cardio, weight lifting or group fitness classes.   Skipping a day at the gym typically causes abject guilt and psychosomatic feelings of instantaneous weight gain and bloat.  Rather than skipping the gym, the exercise cultist limps through the gym parking lot after a painful exit from the car, only to suffer through the treadmill, or the weights or the class regardless of how they feel or what their body needs that day.     

An alternative to this scenario would be to exercise intuitively.  This is done by performing a body scan and asking some questions.  “How do I feel today?”  “Does any part of my body hurt?”  “Do I feel tired or do I feel energized?”   The answers to questions such as these will determine the physical activity that you engage in on that day.  Instead of going to the gym, maybe a walk outdoors would make you feel better.   Foot hurts?  Maybe you should hit the pool instead for some deep-water jogging or swimming?  Muscles feel tired and sore?  Consider staying home and following along with a yoga or stretching video.      

The same intuitive rules apply to group fitness.  If you go to an aqua class and the instructor is teaching HIIT or Boot Camp and your body needs more slow or relaxed movement that day, then simply make the choice to exercise with less intensity.  Take breaks and do stretching as needed regardless of what the instructor is doing.  Exercise should never hurt.   A workout should never feel forced.  Everyone knows that they should exercise, but exercising because you should can actually make you feel worse.  Instead, rethink your approach to fitness and consciously choose exercise activities that make your body feel good.

Approximately 40-minutes in length, this workout combines elements of yoga and stretching with dynamic movement.   Ideally performed in a therapy or warmer pool, the routine can be broken up and combined with water walking or gentle cardio to keep students warm in chillier pools.  Whether you teach the routine in its entirety or borrow ideas to reinvent your cool down and stretch, the goal is to create movement that makes the body feel good.   The cues I use to encourage my participants to make the workout intuitive are: do what feels good, listen to your body and honor what the body is asking,” says Jackie.  She recommends adjusting variables such as stance, hand position, lever length and speed to progress or regress the movements.  “Some days we might be looking for exercise with more challenge, other days we may need gentle movement and Aqua Zen Flow has the flexibility to meet those needs.”

“I originally started practicing Aqua Zen Flow with a client of mine. She suffered from Fibromyalgia and was unable to exercise comfortably in the weight room, so I asked her to meet me in the pool. I wanted her to feel successful so we started by focusing on moving each joint through its maximum range of motion (ROM). She didn't experience any pain with gentle movement and as the weeks went by, she was able to increase her ROM as well as vary her hand position to increase the drag resistance. Shortly after, my supervisor asked me if I could combine my knowledge of aquatic exercise and yoga and teach an aqua yoga class. The same movements I used in the private training translated easily into a group format.” 

When Jackie proposed the Aqua Zen format for video content; I immediately asked her if she could film the routine as a follow-along workout so that an audio download could be produced.   Fitmotivation currently has several higher intensity videos available as follow-along workouts and audio downloads, but is lacking lower intensity workouts.  Aqua Zen Flow can be followed along with in the pool for yoga and stretching, for relaxation, or for more powerful muscular endurance training.  It can be used as a stand-alone program or combined with water walking or other aqua fitness activities.  Jackie’s cues will help guide the participant through the workout that their body needs at that moment.

Fitmotivation extends a big THANK YOU to Jackie for this introduction to intuitive exercise.  Instructors will take away important cueing techniques for empowering students to “own” their individual workout experience, as well as ideas for yoga, stretching and dynamic movement.  Check out Jackie’s other videos on   If you are interested in hosting continuing education workshops with Jackie, you can visit her at her website – 


Author: Mark Grevelding is the founder of Fitmotivation. He is also a training specialist and consultant with the Aquatic Exercise Association’s (AEA). Mark has been active in the fitness industry for 22 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, international presenter and a continuing education provider for AEA, AFAA & ACE.