Developing Mindful Movement
When you hear someone talk about mindful movement they automatically think of exercises involved in Yoga, Pilates, and Thai Chi. After all, those styles of exercise are known to incorporate breath and body awareness. When performing these practices, you slow down and concentrate on the breath, the position or pose you are performing, and staying mentally present. They improve flexibility, mobility, balance, and posture while increasing strength. Since these types of exercises include so many benefits, then why aren’t we taking some of these ideas and applying them to other types of exercise?
What if we re-invented strength training, High intensity interval training (HIIT), plyometric, circuit training, kickboxing, and so many other styles? By taking mindfulness with us into each workout we could vastly improve our results.
How My Physical Awareness Grew
I love cardio workouts. I love to try and push myself to my limits, and see if I can break through moves that challenge both my mind and body. I like telling my mind that I am not tired and then push through until my body just can’t go anymore. This is why I love HIIT, circuit, and plyometric training. They all get my adrenaline pumping, and when it’s done, I feel good about what I was able to accomplish. The problem is that afterward, I would be sore or tight; at times, I would feel exhausted and unable to motivate myself to do every day activities. Sometimes I would have a small headache that wasn't bad enough for meds, but enough to make me uncomfortable.
I decided that I needed to change up something in these workouts in order to avoid undermining the rest of my day. I began to become more mindful of my movements when performing these exercises.
Take the mountain climber as an example. It’s a move that is commonly used in many different styles of exercise. You are in a plank position and pulling one knee at time toward your chest and switching them as fast as you can. It’s so easy to run through this move going as fast as you can without considering your form at all. If you slow down this exercise you will find that you need to keep your shoulders in line with your wrist, and keep your spine straight with head and tailbone in alignment as you bring one leg at a time toward the chest. If you were to become mindful, you would pay attention to the muscles you are using. As you keep your shoulders in line with your wrists you are activating the deltoids, biceps, triceps, and chest. As you keep your head in line with your spine you are activating your obliques and abdominals. As you pull one knee in at a time, you are activating your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip abductors.
When you focus on keeping all those muscles engaged you really get the benefit of the exercise, and to your surprise you won’t be able to do it as long as you would if you were just running through it.
A Call to Action
In order to get the most out of your workouts, to be continually challenged even with familiar material, take the time to slow down, allow the mind to focus on how the body is functioning in form and alignment. Developing an awareness of your body during exercise not only improves your overall strength and power, but also improves the brain's memory and function. You will benefit both mind and body during HIIT, circuit, and any other style of exercise you choose to enjoy just as you would as you practice yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi. Next time you go to a class, choose to challenge yourself at a new level and work to be present and mindful during each and every movement.