What is mindful movement?

Mindfulness has become very popular over the last decade.  Apparently we have all become too busy, too stressed and too plugged in that we need to retrain ourselves to be present to our surroundings and to ourselves. 

Our constant contact with the social media and texting has turned us into the ADD culture we are today.  As always the pendulum swings then reverses direction in a very drastic way.  That is what mindfulness looks like to me, the very opposite of edgy, stressful and on the go lifestyles.  Instead of constantly thinking ahead, to be still and present, unencumbered by the chattering in our heads.

Mindfulness has become so popular that there is even a magazine devoted to it, and yes, you guessed it, it’s called “Mindful.”  I picked up this magazine and read several of the articles that are all published by life coaches, psychologists, nutritionists, and authors who all have something to say about slowing down and the power of “now.”

Mindfulness has become it’s own industry.  

Now I can’t exactly say that I myself haven’t been on the mindfulness bandwagon.  But in practicing it for the past couple of years, I have learned more about where to apply it in my life, and it’s created a balance that I no longer really notice in going about my day.

More importantly is how I try and use it in my massage and Pilates practice.  And here is where it starts.

A while back I started taking a Yoga class from a good friend of mine. She called it “Mindful movement” or maybe it was “mindful yoga”, I can’t really remember but the name isn’t that important.  In this class she didn’t use your regular yoga terms like down dog or warrior 1.  She might have sprinkled them in but rather she just told you to put your foot here, reach your hand there, turn you head up, etc.  She told you how to do the poses but what she tried to get you to focus on was how you felt in each pose, what did you notice?  The key word for me was “notice” it comes without judgment.  It’s an observation.  Each week the class was pretty much 80% the same, with some varying poses here and there.  Normally I would be bored.  I am a teacher too and I like to mix things up and make things different each time.  At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like this sameness every week, but what I realized is I stopped thinking about what I was doing and I started “feeling” and “noticing” things.  I realized that some days I was looser, some days I was tighter.  Maybe my mind wandered more at times and other times I was in the “zone.”   The great thing is that no practice was the same, not really, because we come into each day with a different body, a different mind set, and maybe different external or internal stressors. 

I have to thank her for not only teaching me this, but how it also changed the way in which I taught.  Granted, I still mix things up as that is the style in which I teach and for me being mindful can happen at any time in any place and routine isn’t the only time we can be present. It’s especially challenging when the routine changes or we find ourselves under stress.  

So what is mindful movement?  Well you don't have to do yoga to be mindful. The best way for me to describe this is that you are present in your body, your mind isn’t running the show.  Yes, you need to make a decision about how and what you move from your central nervous system, but then the task is carried out to the end of that neuromuscular track.  What happens most of the time is we don’t feel our way through a movement because our brain is already going on to the next thing.  It’s like a conductor who is conducting a symphony without ever listening to the music being played.  To truly be present in your movement you think, then you feel.  The feeling part is the noticing.  If we notice that feels weird, we might make a small adjustment or change.  But if we are too busy pushing or moving on, or even worse ignoring our sensory system we can develop faulty movement patterns which can lead to injury.  Then it becomes a problem when all you do is notice that muscle or joint that hurts.  I liken this to a child who throws a tantrum because they aren’t getting the attention they need. 

So being mindful in your movements requires your brain to listen and stop talking.  The great thing about this is that the learning takes place within this communication.  We learn more about our bodies, our minds, and our patterns.  We understand load and distribution of weight. We can feel our limits and know when and where to push them.  We can listen and identify triggers because we are paying attention.  Those triggers then can be adjusted.  A whole new quality of movement and practice can take place and we all know what that leads to….results!

The worst thing you can do for your body is to ignore its signals.  Sometimes clients ask me, “is that right?”  I usually respond, does that “feel right” to you?  I may know because I am a trained professional but I want them to be their own pros and in the end they do know better than me. 

When i start my classes or private sessions, I always get my clients to lie on their backs and take some deep breaths and just focus on feeling their breathing.  It’s a great way to turn off your brain and train yourself to be present.  In that hour really nothing is urgent, no phone needs to be answered. Texting, emailing, and social media can wait.  

We can sit and be present, listen, and move our bodies because really they do a lot for us and being mindful in those moments are some of the best ways to take up this new trend.