Whether sitting, walking, running, riding a bike, or sweating it out on a treadmill—each movement can be transformed into mindful movement practice, not just simply moving your body. So, what is a mindful movement? What is the difference between normal movement and mindful movement?
What is Mindful Movement?
A seated formal mindfulness practice would be, for the most part, paying attention to your body sensations, breath, thoughts, and emotions. The mindful movement practice doesn’t change the practice all that much. It just adds movement as an anchor for your attention. Because the principle of mindful movement is bringing your full attention to the present moment to experience the here and now.
So, based on the principle, any physical activity can be mindful, as long as you can place all of your attention on movement and breathe in a way that shifts you from feeling busy and distracted to feeling strong and capable, instead of simply working out to master a skill or improve your condition.
Why Do You Need Mindful Movement?
Mindful movement practices are undoubtedly physically and mentally beneficial. On one hand, when we move our body and adjust the postures in which we hold our body, we can get increased strength and flexibility, better balance and coordination, improved reaction times, better lung function, heightened cardiovascular conditioning, and weight loss.
On the other hand, the psychological benefits of practicing mindful movement include relaxation, greater equanimity, better concentration, and improved mood. It also allows us to check in with our bodies and get moving in a way that can help us lower stress, release stagnant energy, and strengthen our mind-body connection. Oftentimes, when we engage in mindful movement to help our body feel better, our mood is uplifted, too.
4 Typical Types of Mindful Movement
While any movement can be mindful if done with the correct body awareness, there are 4 essential types of physical activity that best lend themselves to mindful movement.
- A walking meditation
Walking meditation is a simple and effective way to explore mindful movement. Unlike walking as we usually would, it asks us to walk slowly and try to bring our full awareness to the act of walking. That can look like focusing on our breath, or feeling the ground beneath our feet as one step turns into the next.
- Yoga Practice
Yoga can help us release tension, stiffness, and heavy emotions, especially the mindful movement healing sleep meditation. Taking a moment to move slowly and consciously through stretches and poses can ease anxiety, calm our minds, and boost our energy, focus, and resilience.
- Tai Chi
Tai Chi focuses on slow movements practiced in sync with the breath. A regular Tai Chi practice can reduce stress, improve sleep, regulate cortisol levels, boost your immune system, and bring together the mind, body and spirit.
- Working Out
Getting regular exercise mindfully, whether at the gym or at home, can be a great way to tune into our bodies, synchronize our breath, activate those typically lazy muscle groups and keep going for longer. You’ll be rewarded with a greater full-body workout, as well as elevated emotional wellness.
How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Exercise Routine?
Mindfulness can be integrated into almost any activity, and it’s especially beneficial when incorporated into your daily exercise routine. So how to combine mindfulness with our daily exercise? Here are several ways to help you.
√ Focus on your surroundings;
To meditate during exercise, don’t listen to your favorite playlist, talk on the phone, read a magazine, or watch TV. Be fully present where you are and check out what’s around you. How is the air? Temperature? And what are you hearing?
√ Tap into body sensations;
Bring your attention to your physical experience. Are there any parts of your body that are working extra hard? Does your body feel different today than it did yesterday?
√ Change different anchors of attention;
Besides your breathing, you can use other anchors of attention according to different exercises, such as each full rotation of your bike pedals, or the up and down of your feet when running. But please stay focused on the rhythm of your anchor, returning to it when your mind wanders.
√ Be kind to your exercise and yourself.
Try to accept and appreciate your current ability, speed, and endurance just as they are. Don’t rush for success, and instead thank yourself for showing up for this healthy activity. For instance, when doing mindful movement healing sleep meditation, you have no need to force yourself to calm or fall asleep in a short time. Just allow and follow your rhythm, and then drowsiness will appear naturally.
Mindful Movement Meditation for Healing Sleep
Relaxing and falling asleep is the main purpose of most people who do mindful movement healing sleep meditation. According to one review of studies taking a few minutes to settle your mind and body before bed can help you fall asleep faster as well as help you get more restful sleep.
While we wait for the research community to provide more definitive answers, it seems that it’s definitely worth giving mindful movement healing sleep meditation a try to stretch and relax areas of your body that tighten up during the day.
- Cow and Cat Pose
Place your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders and your knees on the ground beneath your hips, keep your back straight and your head forward. As you inhale gently drop your belly toward the floor, lift your chest and look forward arching your spine slightly. As you exhale bring your face toward your navel while doming your upper spine, rounding the top of your back. Repeat for 3-5 breaths. This movement stretches your upper back and loosens tension down your spine.
- Deep Lunge
From an all-fours position, step your right foot forward and slide your left knee further behind you. Place your hands on your knee. This deep lunge stretches the front of your hips, an area that gets tight after a day of sitting. Hold for 5 breaths. Switch sides.
- Seated Neck Stretch
Have a seat and cross your legs if you can. Bring your right hand over your head and place it on your left ear. Gently drop your right ear towards your shoulder. Hold for five breaths. Bring your head back to the center gently, and switch sides.
- Knee to Chest into Twist
With your back on the floor, stretch out your legs and slide them together. Pull your right knee into your chest clasping your fingers around your right shin and gently hug your knee to stretch your lower back and hips. Hold for 3 breaths. Release your knee and send it toward the left for a gentle spinal twist. Turn your gaze to the right. Hold for 3 breaths and switch sides.
- Legs Up the Wall
Lie on your back with bent knees and move your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Bring your legs up the wall, lift up your hips, and put a pillow under your lower back to keep your pelvis off the floor. Keep your feet apart a few inches and relaxed. After a day spent standing or sitting, your legs will feel lighter and your body will feel more balanced overall.
Mindful movement is not difficult or time-consuming. Whether the purpose of doing mindful exercise is to relax, energize, help with sleep, or improve athletic performance, just remember one thing: bringing all awareness to your body, breath and heart to feel yourself. That’s all!