Mindful Movement

 A mindful movement practice, just like other mindfulness practices, aims to bring our full attention to the present moment. Mindful movement focuses on bringing our awareness to our breath and the way our body feels and moves through space. When we notice our mind wondering we bring our attention back to our breath and body. This allows us to feel more connected and in tune with ourselves through body-self-awareness.

Mindful movement can be quite diverse as any kind of exercise or body movement can be performed in a mindful way. This may include walking, yoga, riding a bike, weight lifting, stretching or even simply adjusting our posture. This practice supports us to breathe and move our bodies in a way that shifts us from feeling distracted and busy, to feeling strong, focused and connected with our body.

Mindful movement is a great way to practice self-care as it incorporates elements that support mental and physical wellbeing. This type of mindfulness is a great tool for people who may have difficulty sitting still as it can be practiced in a variety of ways in a range of environments (at home, at the gym, outside etc.).

Here are some helpful hints that may help us to be more mindful with our preferred way of moving:

  • 1.Before starting your movement, be it working out at the gym, running or walking outside or stretching, take a moment to be reminded of the purpose of the movement. Perhaps it is to release some built up stress or to train for a competition of some kind, whatever the purpose may be, pause and reflect on what the movement means to you. During the movement, if we feel ourselves becoming less engaged, reminding ourselves of this purpose may be useful to bring our focus back.
  • 2.Take a break from your headphones; although listening to music or podcasts can be helpful to increase enjoyment within a movement, it also distracts us from really becoming in-tune with our bodies. Removing this distraction can support us to be fully engagement with the experience of the movement and our breath.
  • 3.Experiment with different anchors of attention; for example if we are walking, we can think about how our feet feel as we step on the ground, how our breath or heart beat may change as we work harder or which muscle groups we can feel tensing with each stride or the way our arms swing through the air. These are some things to draw our attention back to if we feel our mind wandering.
  • 4.Practice self-compassion during the movement by noticing our style of thinking, are we appreciating our current skill or ability around the movement? What benefits are we getting out of the movement? Or, practicing gratefulness for the opportunity to move in our chosen way.
  • 5.Notice our environment or surroundings, again if we are walking outdoors observe the trees, the surface we are walking on (grass, pavement, sand etc.), the sounds we are hearing or the different smells that may come up as we walk through different areas (such as the sea breeze or freshly cut grass).

Many free mindfulness apps such as 'Smiling Mind' and 'Mindfulness Coach' also provide some guided mindful movement practices that can be used as a gentle introduction into some different ways to engage your body through mindfulness. There are also so many visual resources such as videos to be explored online by simply searching 'mindful movement practice' on Youtube and finding something that feels right for you.

Here is a quick, low intensity practice to connect with your body:

Find a comfortable position sitting or standing, whatever feels right for you in this moment.

Take three long, deep inhales, each followed by three long controlled exhales.

With each exhale notice your posture, there is no need to change anything yet, just notice how your shoulders, neck, back and chin are sitting and how your body feels within this position.

After your third exhale, lift your chin up so it sits parallel to the ground, breathing into this movement, then breathing out slowly.

On the next inhale, roll your shoulders back, and as you exhale move them slightly down so there is no tension between your neck and shoulders.

With a deep inhale, slightly arch your mid back and move your shoulders back again to sit in a comfortable upright posture.

Take another three deep long breaths, noticing how the new posture feels, has it shifted something for you? Perhaps you feel a sense of confidence, or strength. Notice these changes, or if there has been no change, notice that too.

To end the practice, have a scan around the environment you are in, grounding yourself and reacquainting yourself with the surroundings.

Thank you for engaging in this practice, have a wonderful day. 

(Image from unsplash by Georgia De Lotz https://unsplash.com/photos/HoD2lHLYhaw) 

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