Mindful movement is a term that’s used along side many activities now, largely due to the health benefits that are often associated with the practice. Yoga classes are often labeled as mindful movement or mindful exercise but not that’s not entirely true. Yes, yoga can be a prime example of mindful movement at its most effective but not all yoga is mindful. Yoga classes may also have a different focus, depending on the class, the teacher, and your own frame of mind.
Mindful movement can be classified as any exercise or activity performed with awareness. Think of it as moving your body while placing your attention and focus on really noticing and feeling what your body does throughout those movements. This is different to just occasinaly noticing a stretch during a forward bend.
In mindful movement we are practicing being aware of our whole body as an integrated experience. It’s a series of subtle momentary experiences that come together to draw the mind onto a deep connection with the Self. Using the forward fold as an example we observe the details of our changing body during the movement into that posture. Once in the position, we may notice if the weight is towards our toes or our heels. How does the position of our torso change slightly as we breathe in and out. As we begin to stand back up, lifting our arms above our head we notice specific muscles contract to do this movement. We may notice if one arm feels lighter or heavier than the other? These moments can arise in a yoga class if we have the presence of mind to move with awareness or are instructed to do so. Often the goal of the yoga class may be more attributed to physical improvements or in some dynamic yoga classes we don’t get time to ponder all these distinctions.
It’s also good to note that there isn’t a goal attached to the movement or experience. The aim isn’t to notice your body position and then correct its alignment, although these corrections do naturally take place the more aware you become of the body. In essence, mindful movement is simply noticing.
Heres a really simple exercise to demonstrate the process. Sit down on the floor and then get back up again without thinking too much about it. Then repeat the actions, only this second time sit for 10 seconds then stand slowly and really notice the way your body instinctually moves with this one simple direction. Do you roll over towards your side, use one or two arms to push up, which foot do your preferentially place on the floor first? Theres so much movement we do throughout the day with out being aware of it. Sitting, standing, walking, lifting.
So not all yoga is mindful movement unless you engage the mind in the yoga. By placing your awareness on your breath and your body as a whole, you can definitely get a mindful experience in a class. It might be interesting to take note of your experiences in your yoga classes this January. Try to notice the moments that you get so distracted or preoccupied in trying to keep up with the teachers instructions that you realise you are moving without awareness. In that instant take it upon yourself to become more mindful. Observe, feel & experience the body.
Mindful movement can be done in a class-type situation, as in yoga or other mindful movement practices like tai chi or martial arts but it doesn’t have to be limited to exercise. Mindful movement can just be part of your usual daily activities. Why not try it today in preparation for our “30 days of mindful movement” that begins this coming Monday, January 7th. The next time you sit down or get up, brush your teeth, dry yourself with a towel after a shower, try and bring awareness to the movements and see if you experience them on a deeper level.
Tomorrow we will look at some of the science of mindful movement and maybe trigger you to joining me on Monday for our 30 day campaign.
To join the “30 days of mindful movement” mailing list and receive wellbeing advice throughout January from myself then please email me direct on firstname.lastname@example.org
Catch you tomorrow.
Peace & Love