Mindfulness and Exercise:
How can mindfulness improve your fitness?
What is mindfulness?
“The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”
“A mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique”
Mindful exercise is about performing physical activity while focusing inward. The idea is to let go of distractions and unrelated thoughts, and focus your attention on your sensations, breath, and the movements of your body. The basic premise here is that when you give your full attention to your workout, you’re bound to do it more effectively (and safely!).
Regular exercise is beneficial for both body and mind, as confirmed by thousands of research studies. If you already exercise on a regular basis, you know the advantages. You can begin by simply walking. Walking is an aerobic exercise and a great way to practice mindfulness.
Then you can build up to whatever type of more strenuous exercise you fancy. Approach each new exercise with a mindful attitude – be curious of what will happen, stay with uncomfortable sensations for a while, explore the edge between comfort and discomfort and look around you.
Being mindful during your workout can significantly:
Increase the effectiveness of your workout,
Decrease your chances of injury,
Enhance your enjoyment of exercising, and
Support you in developing a healthy and loving relationship with your body.
With Mindful exercise you’re going for quality, not quantity. Improve the efficacy of your workouts by bringing your focused attention to your breath and your movements while you are jogging, biking or power walking, for example.
Mindfulness practices to improve your fitness routine:
While lifting weights, put your full attention on the muscle(s) you are strengthening. Really feel your muscles contract and relax with each repetition. Allow your breath to be slow and steady. As unrelated thoughts arise, let them go and return your attention to your muscles and your breathing.
While running/Power walking, turn off your ipod and bring your attention to the sound of your feet, the rhythm of your breath and the movement of your arms. Notice how you feel during and after your run when practicing mindfulness in this way.
Before a workout, or after your ‘warm up,’ tune in to your body and notice what level of exertion your body is ready for. And changing your workout accordingly
While stretching, bring your attention right into the area you’re stretching. Close your eyes and
take 10 slow breaths, as if you are breathing directly into the muscles you’re stretching. Notice how your focus and breath support your body to open up and expand more easily.
When riding your bike, focus your mind on the movements of your leg muscles. Feel your muscles working in unison to peddle the bike. Smile and take a moment to appreciate the miraculous coordination of your body to perform such a task!
Practicing mindfulness while exercising is good for both your body and your mind. The repetitive nature of most exercises provides a perfect training ground for the art of mindfulness. Practice the skills listed above and see the benefits extend beyond to every area of your life!