There is a strong link between mindfulness and movement. As mental well-being takes center stage, mindful movement has become an increasingly hot topic in the world of health and fitness.
In this guide, we explore some key questions about the health benefits of mindful movement. Let’s get started.
What is Mindful Movement?
Mindful movement is all about checking in with your body as you move. It’s about learning to move in a way that reduces stress levels and builds a strong connection between the mind and body.
Like other mindfulness practices, mindful movement centers the mind as you exercise so you can focus on the present and eliminate negative thoughts and stressful emotions from your mind. For those who find that their mind begins to wander when they meditate, it can help to stay focused on your breath and movement. Your attention is centered around the way your body feels as you move.
Mindful movement doesn’t require you to overhaul your usual fitness regime. It’s more about your mental space than the exercises you’re doing. For instance, taking a moment to take stock of how your body feels in certain positions, how your breath is, or the position of your back as you carry out an exercise. Becoming present in the moment as you exercise allows your mind and body to connect on a deeper level.
What are the Benefits of Mindful Movement?
Research has shown that mindful movement not only allows us to tune in to our bodies but also improves our emotional wellbeing.
Here are the four main advantages of mindful movement.
1. Reduce stress & anxiety
Stress and anxiety wreak havoc on our bodies. They negatively impact the immune system, the digestive system, cardiovascular function, as well as disrupt sleep which is essential for the body to recover. Chronic anxiety and stress take a huge toll on physical and mental health if left unchecked. That’s why addressing the root cause is critical.
In 2018, Penn State carried out a study that researched the advantages of mindful movement, especially on stress and anxiety. Researchers studied the stress levels and activity levels of a group of students to see what they could find. The results indicated that when students employed mindfulness practices during activity times, their stress and anxiety levels plummeted.
2. Lift mood
Exercise is a great way to beat the blues. There is a strong link between depression and a sedentary lifestyle. Moving the body can help to relieve symptoms of depression and boost self-esteem. Mindful movement can enhance mood even further.
One study found that “exercise and mindful movement address certain psychosocial factors of depression”. Keeping a mood diary can help you to track how mindful movement is affecting your mood and emotional wellness.
3. Better focus
With our busy lifestyles, it can be tricky to find a quiet moment in the day to be present. Mindful movement empowers you to stop and really take in how you’re feeling physically and mentally. When your mind starts to wander, simply refocus it back to the movement.
It takes practice, but over time practicing mindful movement will improve your ability to focus and get into that state of ‘flow’. This will make you perform better, lift your self-esteem, and boost your performance in and out of the gym.
4. Better sleep
Sleep is essential for recovery. It’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. This isn’t always easy. Hectic lifestyles, stress, or overstimulation can make it tough to switch off at night.
Mindfulness in motion can help you get better sleep. Meditating or doing a few gentle stretches while engaging in mindful movement is effective for settling the mind and body for a relaxing night’s sleep.
5 Examples of Mindful Movement
We’ve put together a list of 5 awesome mindful movement exercises to strengthen your mind and body.
1. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises play with the breath, elongating or shortening breaths to calm the parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing exercises are not the same as observing our breath, they are a series of specific breathing exercises that help the body to relax, refocus and replenish oxygen levels.
This two-minute video from mindful.org showcases a mindful movement practice to focus on your breath and synchronize the mind and body.
2. Walking meditation
A walking meditation is a simple way to introduce yourself to mindful movement. So, what’s the difference between walking meditation and a regular walk? The biggest difference is the purpose. In walking meditation, there is no destination. The idea is to walk slowly, being mindful of the act of walking itself by focusing on the breath, the steps, or the surroundings.
Unplug your headphones and be present or listen to a guided meditation as you walk. If the mind wanders, refocus it just like you would during a seated meditation. Walking meditation can be done at any speed and distance of your choice. It makes for a great cool-down exercise after your workout session, as part of your morning or evening routine, or as a way to decompress on your lunch break.
Fancy giving it a go? Check out this fifteen-minute walking meditation.
3. QiGong & Tai Chi
Qigong is an ancient practice that is said to enhance the mind, body, and soul. It mixes martial arts and meditation practices for mindful movement. Qigong includes a variety of techniques, making it suitable for every age and fitness level.
Similar to Qigong, Tai Chi is another effective mindful movement practice that encompasses deep breathing with flowing Chinese martial arts techniques. The core principle of Tai Chi is to focus on your breath as you transition between movements.
If you want to give Qigong a try, this fifteen-minute Qigong daily routine is perfect for beginners.
Yoga and stretching help us to tune into our bodies and release tension. Our body stores negative emotions. Yoga helps to release emotional stiffness as well as physical stiffness. To make your yoga session mindful, go slow. Move through each pose slowly and mindfully, taking time to notice your breath and how your body feels.
Add a gentle, mindful yoga session, such as this ten-minute inner peace practice, to your fitness routine to allow the body and mind to reconnect and recover.
5. Weight lifting
Conditioning training isn’t just for building muscle. You can transform your weight lifting session into a mindfulness moment with just a few minor adjustments. Turn off your playlist, slow down each rep, and take stock of how your body feels. Concentrate on the rhythm of each repetition. Where do you feel it in your body? How does your breath change with each movement? Simply shifting your focus can make your usual workout more mindful.
Any physical activity is suitable for mindful meditation. What’s important is finding attention anchors in the movement. This could be the up and down movement of the bar as you lift weights, each wheel rotation of your bicycle, the rhythm of each stroke as you swim, or your breath. Whatever anchor you choose, the main goal is to concentrate on it to keep your mind from wandering to that unanswered email or looming deadline.
7 Tips to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Exercise Routine
We’ve compiled a list of seven simple ways to work mindfulness into your workout.
1. Focus on your purpose
Pause for a second and think about why you want to meditate. Do you want to improve your focus? Do you have negative emotions that you struggle to navigate? Now think about the purpose of the exercise you’re doing. Do you want to improve your fitness? Do you want to strengthen your core? By considering the purpose of each movement, your moves become more intentional.
2. Pay attention to your surroundings
Unplug your headphones for a few moments and tap into open awareness. Focus on what you see, what you hear, what you smell, and how you feel. This encourages the mind to stay present. Also, pay attention to your body. Does it feel different today? Are you working one body part extra hard today? Do any of your body parts feel tired?
3. Use breathwork
When your mind begins to wander to your to-do list or dinner plans, breathwork can help to recentre yourself. Pay attention to the tempo of your breath and note any changes in your breathing as you move.
4. Find different attentional focal points
As you move your body, focus on different anchors of attention. For example, note the rhythm of each lunge, each stride on the treadmill, or each rep. This can help your mind to stay focused and prevent it from drifting off.
5. Speak to yourself with kindness
Use mindful movement to consider the quality of your thoughts as you work out. Focus on kind thoughts, noting your improvement rather than comparing yourself to others or focusing on what you can’t do yet.
6. Incorporate words or phrases
An effective way to bring your attention back is to focus on words or phrases as you move. Counting the rhythm can center the mind, as can thanking your body as you move. Another simple way to focus attention is to repeat a phrase. Mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh recommends repeating the sentence “I have arrived, I am home, in the here, in the now” as you move.
Choose a phrase that resonates with you and repeat it, like a mantra, as you move your body and clear your mind.
7. Choose the right fitness apparel
Your fitness apparel should move with you. Leaving your body free to move without distractions from uncomfortable seams or chafing. Like a second skin. Opting for activewear that has your performance in mind empowers you to be present as you move.
Evolve is whitehorse’s very first performance collection. Bold, luxurious, and innovative, each piece is designed to sculpt and support the body so you can move without limits.
<<Shop the whitehorse Evolve collection>>
We were born to move. Movement lifts our mood, keeps us strong, and helps us build our self-esteem and focus. Mindful movement takes this a step further, working to create harmony between the mind and body by using movement to focus our minds and stay in the present. Any physical exercise can be mindful.
From Zumba to running to horse-riding, the key is to pay attention to what your body is doing and stay in the present for a workout that is as good for your mind as it is for your body. As if we needed another reason to break a sweat.
Are you a fan of mindful movement? Share your favorite tips in the comments section below.