Why Mindful Movement is What's Missing on Your Path to Healing (And 6 Ways to Include It)
We all hear the experts talking about exercise, right? “Get 30 minutes 3 times per week of cardiovascular exercise or strength training,” they say.
They want you lifting, running, power walking, lifting free weights, using the machines at the gym, on the eliptical or the stairmaster, or doing crossfit or high intensity training.
I am all for getting your fitness on. Hell, you know I ran a CrossFit gym for 7 1/2 years, right?
Buuut, if you have chronic illness that makes exercising difficult (or impossible) or if you hate anything to do with exercise. . . this post is for you.
Or maybe you’re one of those people that want more mindfulness and serenity in their lives that have the damnedest time doing sitting meditation? This post is also for you!
With the exception of running, which I do find to be incredibly grounding, where is mindful movement in your life? Where do you connect the movement of your body to your breath while simultaneously grounded and aware?
For many, moving the body mindfully while incorporating the breath is the perfect solution. Moving the body in a way and only to a point where you feel energized and not fatigued (which can happen very easily with chronic illness).
I define mindful movement as moving the body intentionally. It’s about syncronizing the breath and the body and also noticing what you feel in your body- your heart beat, the path the air takes from the nose to the lungs and out of the mouth— and feeling the movement you’re making in your body. And being nowhere else mentally as you do this. It feels energizing and relaxing all at the same time!
The truth is that you’ll see a much broader range of benefits when you incorporate mindful movement into your life as your fitness routine or in addition to.
Here are a few benefits of Mindful Movement:
Increases the intelligence & connnection of our body systems
Allows us to switch to our parasympathetic nervous system (or rest & digest) where HEALING happens.
Improves our mind-body connection which also allows us to more easily access our spirit/higher self/conciousness- however you like to describe it.
Oxygenates our blood without the hard work from the adrenal glands
And if you’re dealing with any type of chronic health condition, mindful movement would make a huge impact on your life.
How can you get more mindful movement into your life?
Here are 6 ways to get out of your head and into your body.
Yoga was probably the first thing you thought of as mindful movement. Yoga is kind of a one-stop-shop for movement, breath, and increasing strength and flexibility.
Whether you love it, hate it, or dabble in it, my advice with yoga is this: find a style and teacher you like whether in person or an online subscription. Some looove the teacher being really mindful and spiritual as they teach, while others would find this boring, irritating, or too “out there” and would enjoy a fun, upbeat teacher that encourages laughing and just gets to the point.
The grandfather of Tai Chi Chuan, Qigong is an ancient form of Chinese Medicine that consists of a system of exercises that generates internal energy and vitality. It’s like moving meditation and it’s easier to learn that Tai Chi Chuan. Also, it’s ah-maaaazing for stress-reduction.
I’ll tell you, I never knew how to fully relax until I did Qigong.
I remember at my first intro class towards the end during the stillness portion, I was more relaxed than I had ever been. Even during a massage. Even in sitting meditation. And interestingly enough, I was actually able to do sitting meditation better after being a student of Qigong.
If you’re interested in trying this out, check out my teacher’s online program Qigong 101: The Art of Self-Healing. In fact, here is a link to some FREE taining videos.
3. Tai Chi Chuan
“Tai Chi is a form of Chinese Kung Fu. It is a martial art that emphasizes softness, internal energy development, and spiritual cultivation. It also happens to be good for the health,” as defined by my teacher, Anthony Korahias of Flowing Zen.
Tai Chi is often what people think of when they hear Qigong and many times are really looking for what Qigong has to offer when they start a Tai Chi class. Qigong is gentle and it promotes health and vitality. To learn more about the difference, enjoy this entertaining article by my teacher, Anthony.
“Walk like man, talk like a man, walk like a man my so-o-on…” thanks for that intro, Frankie Vallie, now stop singing in my head, please.
If you want more walking in your life, get a dog because they get so excited about walking and you’ll want to walk them just because they are so cute when you ask them if they want to.
But seriously, many people enjoy mindful walking and use it to get grounded by focusing on the sensations on how the ground hits each part of the foot.
Mostly, taking a walk is a lovely way to take a break during the day, first thing in the morning, or in the evening. There’s just something about a relaxing walk. . . a little movement and oxygenation + a little nature + a mental break = a refreshing way to move mindfully.
One of my favorites because we have world class hiking here in Asheville. But honestly, whereever you can find space to walk in nature that gets you out of your head and into the present moment by enjoying nature around you will do the trick.
6. Stretching in a Relaxed State Using the Breath
Most of us know some basic stretches. And even if you already do, I still encourage you to learn new and different ones.
One mistake people make when they stretch is they try to force the stretch. What the body REALLY needs to loosen up is the combination of the breath with the stretch. That muscle will soften and relax with the breath, just try it. Here’s how:
Inhale to get into your stretch and exhale in the stretch as you move to your end point of flexibility. Take about 5 breaths in each stretch as you try to move a little further on the exhale (never try to reach further on the inhale).
Mindful Movement Creates a New YOU!
All of these 6 activities increase mindfulness and the mind body connection. For me, I feel refreshed, grounded, stronger in my body, and afterward I feel a more positive attitude and an increase in positive emotions such as joy, peace, serenity, and gratitude.
Incorporate one of these daily and you’ll notice a difference. And you’ll even be increasing your body’s healing ability just by doing so.
To your health and healing,