In mindfulness programs, you may often find that the sessions begin with and incorporate mindful movement. Mindful movement can be any type of movement from yoga to Pilates to swimming and everything in between. What makes movement mindful, is the non-judgmental attention we pay to our bodies as we move and as we are still.
Noticing the body is one of the first ways we begin a mindfulness practice. Typically, practitioners are invited to conduct a body scan and engage in gentle stretching. The act of moving our body can make it easier for us to shift our focus from all the demands of our daily lives into the present moment.
It is through this movement that we have the opportunity to practice strengthening our so-called ‘muscle’ of paying attention to things as they are. One example of mindful movement is to balance on one leg while standing. When we balance our body, it corresponds to balancing our mind. We may notice that when we balance – the more focused we are – the more balance we have. The more distracted we are, the more physically unbalanced we may be in that movement.
As always during mindfulness practices, people are encouraged to accept their body and their limitations in that moment. Working towards your limits, but never beyond. One of the keys to mindfulness is to be with yourself as you are in that given moment.
When we check-in with our bodies through mindful movement, we open ourselves up to a number of physical and emotional benefits. Mindful movement has been shown to reduce stress, strengthen our mind-body connection, and improve our mood.
By focusing our attention to our breath and our body during these movements, we may be better attuned to recognizing any pain, stiffness, disruptions to our breathing patterns, our emotional state, and so much more.
Mindful movement can also reduce the possibility of injury and pain as we get older, even through gentle stretching regularly. For some, you may find that exercise is a great way to not only blow-off steam and stay in shape, but also to tune into to your body in the moment. Whenever our mind wanders, we bring it back to the moment and the sensations we are experiencing then and there.
We can also positively impact the activity of our autonomic nervous system, which influences our heart rate, blood pressure and stress response by moving our body and adjusting our posture. Focusing on the spine and maintaining good posture, can help us take care of our bodies for the long haul.