Mindful movement practices are the superfood of mindfulness, packed with a powerful punch of physical, mental and emotional health benefits!
An image that often comes to mind when people talk about mindfulness practice or meditation is that of a person sitting still in a cross-legged position and while that’s a great way to practise mindfulness it isn’t the only way!
Mindfulness can be practised through movement and many people find a mindful movement practice to be a great way to bring a mindfulness practice into their lives, along with the added benefit of exercise! Our modern culture is go-go-go and a lot of people are simply not used to being still. Sometimes it is the sitting still in itself that can be one of the most challenging aspects of mindfulness practice.
Mindful movement can be used to describe any movement activity that is practised mindfully, by giving attention, presence and intention to whatever the form of movement may be. It might be qigong, running, yoga, swimming, walking or a number of other activities. The difference between mindful movement and other movement like exercise, sport or fitness activities is the intent which we place on the practice. We are not playing to win, be the best at something, burn calories or to be part of a team. We are practising the form of movement, as Jon Kabat-Zinn would say, in a particular way, in the present moment, on purpose and non-judgementally.
Mindful movement is not only a mindfulness practice, but there are the added benefits that come with moving your body! We all know that our lifestyles are generally too sedentary and for many of us it is difficult to find time for exercise. Mindfulness through movement cultivates the amazing benefits that come from adopting a mindfulness practice, such as reduced anxiety, depression and stress, but also the benefits of physical movement. Depending on the form of mindful movement you could be improving your cardiopulmonary health, bone density, balance, strength, lymphatic, digestive and immune systems as well as helping to improve your sleep quality.
As if the physical and mental health benefits aren’t enough, there is also evidence that mindful movement practices boost positive emotional qualities. By becoming more connected and embodied you can increase self awareness and develop qualities such as compassion, kindness and curiosity, as well as improve focus and concentration.
While you might be tempted to stop reading and go off to yoga, or on a walk or run, it’s a good idea to get some guidance and direction from a teacher who is a trained mindfulness practitioner and who specialises in mindful movement practice. Otherwise you might just end up on autopilot or in the ‘default mode’ of thinking about the past or future as you go for your morning walk or run.
Nicole Betts is a qigong and meditation practitioner and natural health consultant. Nicole has trained in qigong with Tai Chi Fitness Australia and with internationally renowned Qigong Master Lee Holden in Santa Cruz, California. She has trained in mindfulness-based stillness meditation with the Gawler Foundation and undertaken various other forms meditation training, and is also an experienced outdoor leader, fitness instructor and natural health practitioner.
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