The term mindfulness is thrown around a lot these days. It almost seems to be seen as the ‘cure-all’ for all the difficulties and ills in the modern world. And who knows, that may be true! The practise of mindfulness spans over so many areas of life that it could well be the missing link for personal happiness in modern humans. One area in which mindfulness plays a very important part is movement. Whether that’s in exercise, at work or in general life, practicing mindful movement can play a huge role in improving your mental and physical health.
Mindful Movement In Exercise
When you are exercising, you’re moving your body in a way that isn’t ‘everyday’. You may be putting strain on certain muscle groups you don’t use often, or simply using positions that aren’t all that common to you. That makes mindfulness all the more important when it comes to the way you move. In movement-based classes like Systema, Kettlebells, Yoga and Tai Chi, mindful movement is what helps you bridge the gap between mind and body, which changes these practises from simple exercises into something deeply meaningful or even spiritual.
For example, the arm movements used in Qi Gong (the breathing exercises taught as part of the Tai Chi class) can seem very simple, and could just be described as waving your arms in the air. However when practised slowly, with the correct breathing and mindful focus, they change and become so much more than that. The Qi Gong moves are carried out slowly, with mental focus, at all times. This means you feel your body moving, and you experience, moment by moment, the movement of your muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments. This makes it easier to self-correct posture and change the movement to suit your own structure and abilities – very useful if you’re struggling with pain or injuries.
Mindful Movement At Work
Of course, exercise isn’t the only place mindful movement can make a difference. If you struggle with the typical ‘midday slump’ at work, mindful movement can be a great alternative to heading to the vending machine for a sugary boost. Done properly, it’s an energizing mini-retreat and is the perfect remedy for workday sluggishness. Spending just a few minutes stretching and breathing with purpose, you can wake up your body and refresh your brain, shifting you from foggy to focus. Research has shown that acute physical exercise also enhances executive functioning, helping you think more clearly and be more productive. Being mindful in your movements also allows you to pick up on any niggling aches and pains you may be experiencing during the day that you might not notice otherwise. The stiff neck from an incorrectly positioned monitor, or the aching back from bad posture. Once you feel these things, you can take steps to correct them, improving your overall health and happiness at work.
Not Pushing Through The Pain
In many forms of exercise our natural instinct is to ‘push through the pain’ to ensure we get the results we want. Sometimes we don’t even realise we’re doing it – we just aren’t tuning in to what our bodies are doing and how much possible damage we’re causing for the future. We’ve all damaged ourselves at some point during the pursuit of our goals and pastimes, and we will have to live with the consequences of those actions for years to come. But while that’s just part of life, we only have one body, and we should learn to treat it properly and with respect if we want it to last a lifetime! Mindful movement and awareness is what helps us get in touch with our bodies again and prevent further damage. It might even be able to heal some of those old injuries!
So, the next time you’re exercising (or exerting yourself), try to slow things down and really feel what’s happening in your body as you carry out the task. If you feel a spark of pain or a little twinge, slow down and be aware of what is causing the pain, and see if you can adjust your movement to avoid it. Whatever you do, don’t just push through it! You may be able to change the movement to make it non-painful, but only if you move slowly and mindfully, putting your awareness into the area and really feeling what’s happening. If you need any help or advice in practicing mindful movement, or recovering from an injury, just get in touch with us today.