I came up for the idea of this blog post during my weekly swim. I LOVE swimming, and feel totally at ease in the water. I reach and pull, reach and pull, and breathe. It's repetitive and calming for me. And I've realized it is an excellent example of mindful movement.
Exercise can be more than simply exercise. It can be Mindful Movement.
Sometimes, during my day to day life, when I'm in a rush, or distracted, I get careless with my movements.
Sometimes- like during Pilates exercises, I am very precise with my body and move a certain way.
But there's definitely a middle ground, where I have a low level background hum of an awareness of what my body is doing. That space is a pretty amazing one, and I find myself able to connect to it more and more these days. It's awesome, and you may just be doing it too.
How do you know you have experienced mindful movement when you exercise?
1. Your mind becomes clear.
During the movement, I'm not thinking- I'm doing. My mind enters that state where I am there, I am present, and I am just in the moment. Thoughts come and go, but don't linger. It's glorious. If you meditate at all you will understand exactly what I mean.
2. It will feel effortless.
Your body moves and you are along for the ride, helping when needed but not forcing it to keep going.
3. You will not be obsessed with a goal or plan.
Throw the calorie counting, reps, times and all other goals out the window. You are just doing the movement. That's it.
4. You will feel refreshed afterwards.
Your mind and body feel fantastic- your muscles pleasantly worked, your mind free of worries and at peace.
5. You will look forward to doing it again.
It felt good, you feel good, so you want to do it some more. Awesome.
Needless to say, the above does not fit with our modern expectations of exercise. It doesn't meet the criteria of the current fitness industry- which is obsessed with goals, counting calories, having accountability partners, etc, etc. Many people feel like they haven't truly worked out unless they've experienced pain, sweat, felt "the burn," did 50 reps or whatever they have in their plan for that day. Unfortunately, this kind of mindset can easily lead to injuries- and is almost always a short-term and unsustainable approach to exercise. What happens once you meet your goal? Do you keep going and set a new one? It's an obsessive way to view it, and doesn't account for the "life" factors. Like getting sick. Like having a child to care for. Like being tired after a busy day. Or having a craving a chocolate bar, or a glass of wine. So many things to keep track of and control, it's impossible to keep on top of it forever. And exhausting!
I'm saying no thanks to this mindset of control and accountability. Instead I'm going to focus on moving mindfully, and enjoying the feel of my body performing an exercise. I'm going to find the space and time in my life because I love exercise. If life gets in the way, so be it. I will find the time sometime soon, I'm certain of it. And I will for the rest of my life.
Maybe you've moved mindfully before and recognize the feelings I described above. Or maybe you hate moving because you've done so much traditional exercise that it puts you off moving mindfully. If that's the case, maybe it's time to try something new.
Thanks for reading. All my love and compassion to you on this crazy journey we call life xx
Diane Archer, Pilates Instructor from the UK now living back in Canada. Blog of tips, thoughts, home challenges.