Making Mindful Movement Mainstream for 2019
Over the past several years mindfulness has become more popular and mainstream. Professional sport teams, corporate America, television and music performers, along with fire and police personnel are practicing mindfulness. Recent scientific studies have proven the positive effects of mindfulness as it can enhance productivity, performance, and focus, along with reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. Television reporter Dan Harris has stated that “mindfulness is a superpower.” Many people in our society today are stressed and have constant chatter and clutter in their head. The goal of mindfulness is for one to focus in the present moment with a “quiet mind.” Mindful practice or life-style brings one many positive effects from health benefits, to outlook on life, and a sense of well-being.
With the increase in the use of mindfulness and the awareness of the mind-body connection it is no surprise that also growing in popularity are the practices of “mindful movement.”
Mindful movement combines the benefits of physical activity with the benefits of mindfulness. Some of the popular types of mindful movement are: walking, yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, and meditation which are all easy to do with low cost and can give great health benefits. Any of these practices, almost anyone can do at any age from youth to seniors. The following five practices will help incorporate mindful movement into your daily life.
1. Take Time to Breathe
The one common key part of mindful movement is to be focused and aware of your breath.
Breath is one of the body’s most natural powers. Good breathing habits are important for health, relaxation, and reduction of stress. Many people today are filled with stress and anxiety. They also lack activity and movement. This combination causes them to experience shortness of breath and a lack of deep breathing, which will result in poor health. Most all the mindful movement practices stress the importance of proper breathing. Slow and deep breathing sends oxygen moving throughout your body. It helps to clear the mind and to calm and heal the body, and to de-stress. When you add breath to any movement “you move with intention, not just moving to move, or doing to do. Many people go through life not connecting with their breath, therefore also not connecting to other aspects of their life,” says Pernille Monto from JustBE Yoga Studio in Hyannis, MA. It is important every day to take time to focus on your breath. It will greatly benefit any body.
2. Walk – Anytime You Can
Simply going for a walk is underestimated and underutilized for all the health benefits it gives if done regularly. Walking daily, with focus on your breathing, surroundings, and feelings is an easy way to give yourself healthy benefits. The one requirement is to have a comfortable pair of walking shoes or sneakers. Some benefits of walking daily are: improves your mood and attitude, bolsters heart and brain health, and can ease sugar cravings. Walks do not need to be long to be beneficial. Recent research has shown that a 15-minute walk, 15 minutes after a meal is just as beneficial to you as a 30 plus minute walk during the day. Within minutes of walking your body will burn up to five calories per minute compared to only one minute when at rest. As you begin to breathe deeply oxygen is moving throughout your body helping you to clear the clutter in your mind, to calm you down, and de-stress. Some examples to accomplish more walking during the day are: parking a distance away from your destination, taking the stairs, and walking while on the phone, or even taking a short walk around your neighborhood. Walking, if done regularly, can strengthen heart and lungs, and can prevent half the causes of diabetics, and can even put a smile on your face, which improves one’s attitude.
Yoga includes stretching and strengthening postures, mindful breathing, and meditation,
to connect one to their mind, body, and spirit. There are several different types of yoga practices, from one that stresses slow movements, to others that move quickly. Most all types of yoga aim at enhancing the energy that flows through the body with the benefit of one’s breathing. One of yoga’s greatest benefits is an increase in body awareness that happens when combining one’s body movement with one’s breath. Breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. Pernille Monto, states that from yoga “one creates flexibility physically and mentally. Physically, from the movement, and mentally, from the breathing, by exhaling out to get rid of the negative, and inhaling to allow good energy to come in, and to welcome in the positive and love.” Yoga is the physical, mental, and spiritual energies working together to create one’s good health. With few side effects, yoga is safe when practiced correctly, but like any other form of exercise if not done correctly one could possibly be injured.
4. Tai Chi and Qigong
Tai Chi and Qigong are both ancient practices that began thousands of years ago in China. There are many variations for each of them, but they have in common the principles of balance, relaxation, breathing, and proper posture. Also, they are similar in that they are done with gentle movements to benefit the flow of qi (life force) in the body. The Chinese believe that health is an unrestricted flow of energy (chi or qi) throughout the body. Qi is always in motion in the body. When that flow is restricted then illness occurs. The end goal is to be in peace, and one with the universe, and for the body, both internally and externally, to flow like running water and not against it. A healthy body is one where the qi flows freely throughout the body and to all cells of the body.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic have been teaching Tai Chi to their patients. Mary Jurisson, M.D. said that Tai Chi “brings opposites into balance which restores energy to the body.”
Like the other mindful movement practices Tai Chi is adaptable for one who may have physical challenges. It is a gentle art that offers health benefits to people of any age and almost any physical condition.
Qigong’s purpose is to benefit one’s internal harmony along with one’s harmony with nature. It promotes inner strength, quiets the mind, and brings the body to a natural state of health. Like yoga and Tai Chi there are many different styles of Qigong, but most all involve moving or stationary postures, plus different breathing techniques, along with meditation and mindful focus.
One other practice of mindful movement, which requires little movement, is meditation.
The only movement in meditation is breathing deeply, in a relaxed position.
In the early 1970’s American doctors created “Mindful Meditation” to help patients combat stress by learning to live in the moment, and to stop focusing on past and future stresses and dramas. They adopted this practice from the ancient teachings of Buddhism. The technique is simply to take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath.
Research has shown that this daily practice can help reduce stress, anxiety, lower blood pressure, and can help with pain control. Best part of this, is that all you need, is five minutes a day to just focus on the present moment, and your breathing. Gisele Bundchen in her book “Lessons, My Path to A Meaningful Life”, says “I meditate every morning for just five minutes. This practice helps to support my inner balance for the rest of my day. Meditation helps me to stay calm and clear.” Like the other mindful movement practices, the importance is to breathe slowly and deeply with a quiet mind.
Recent studies have shown that practicing meditation daily can help slow down the unwanted side effects of aging. Therefore, a great potential benefit, when you just take time out every day to quiet the mind and focus on your breath.
For all the mindful movement practices, simple works best. These types of movements do not have to be complicated. They promote getting into a relaxed flow state of mind, both physically and mentally, as the body unwinds and the chi (energy) moves throughout the body. Mindful movement is not just limited to these practices. One can make any activity a moving meditation (gardening, biking, swimming, rowing, running) just to name a few. Just remember to breathe, quiet your mind, and focus your attention in the present moment.
David Sauro is the Founder of HOW Heart of Wellness based in Centerville, MA. HOW is a non-profit that specializes in mindful wellness programs that are inspirational and informational for businesses, communities, and schools.
Course by Allegra Learning Solutions: Certificate in Mindfulness; Gisele Bundchen: Lessons My path To A Meaningful Life
Videos: Dr. Oz; The Five-Minute Meditation; Mayo Clinic: Benefits of Tai Chi; Medical Edge with Vivien Williams: Benefits of Tai Chi; Communi Qi: Qigong Practice; Daily Motive Web (DMW): Benefits of Walking