We all know that exercise is good for us: It decreases stress levels, boosts endorphins + builds strength and flexibility. But movement—pretty much any kind of movement—is also key to your overall state of well BE-ing, and helps reconnect your mind, body + spirit while expressing both your inner + outer strength.
And just like with everything else in your life, your exercises + workouts can be the perfect avenue for practicing mindfulness. That’s because mindful movement is simply exercise performed with awareness. It involves quieting your mind, listening to your body + adjusting your movements based on the feedback it's giving you. When moving mindfully, you’re aware of your entire body and how even the slightest movement affects every other muscle. You notice everything from your balance and where your weight is or isn’t sitting to how your breathing can change the position of your torso and chest. And mindful movement isn’t about getting every movement right or each position perfect. Instead, it’s about noticing your movements and appreciating them for what they are.
While essentially any exercise can be done mindfully, there are a few forms of movement I find the easiest to practice with mindfulness:
Yoga: This is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of mindful movement. This centuries-old meditative exercise uses your body, breath, thoughts + senses to help you reconnect with the universe, calm your mind + heal your body. Andit's proven to be really good for you, with benefits like increased strength + flexibility, better balance + coordination, and improved lung + cardiovascular function. Just don't forget to stay mindful, rather than getting carried away with thoughts about whether your Downward-Facing Dog is correct or if your Triangle pose looks as good as your mat mate's.
Walking + hiking: These activities are not only suitable for a range of ages + fitness levels, but they're also perfect for reconnecting with the universe + beautiful sights surrounding you. Instead of letting your mind race with thoughts of your to-do list or getting carried away listening to your new favorite album while out on a walk, try taking a hike or walk while only focusing on the things you see and feel. How does the sunshine feel when it's hitting your skin? What do the flowing river + crunching leaves sound like? How does every muscle of your body work together to help you tackle that steep + challenging hill? Take notice of these things while walking, and you'll come away feeling a whole lot more mindful.
Tai Chi + Qigong: Originating in China, these practices use movement, affirmations, breathing techniques, visualization + meditation to improve the flow of “qi” (your life force) and restore harmony with both yourself + nature. You can practice them anytime or anywhere, but I find it works best to start my day on mindful note by doing them outside in the morning to help me be at one with nature.
How do you incorporate mindful movement into your exercise routine? Tell us in the comments section below, or tag us in a photo on Instagram @malaandmantra with #MMtakeover.