In a world where fitness often emphasizes extreme workouts and pushing through pain, there exists a movement practice that takes a different approach—one that focuses on mindful movement and body connection. In this blog post, we will delve into what mindful movement is and explore the profound advantages it brings to our physical and mental well-being.
NOTE: Depending on where you are in your healing journey, movement may not be advised at this time. Please talk to your care team about including any type of movement in your routine to be sure it does not interfere with your recovery goals. If you need support, The Balanced Practice is here for you.
Prefer to listen to the podcast episode? Click here for The Balanced Dietitian Podcast (episode 145)
For many, exercise is synonymous with a strict fitness regime focused solely on physical goals. However, mindful movement challenges this perspective, inviting individuals to approach movement as a way of connecting with their bodies rather than punishing or shaming them.
Mindful movement is a form of exercise that encourages us to be fully present in our bodies, without judgment. It involves paying close attention to the sensations, messages, and cues our body provides during physical activity. Unlike conventional exercise, which may focus on achieving specific goals or pushing ourselves to the limit, mindful movement invites us to listen to our bodies and respond with compassion and self-awareness.
1. Increased Body Awareness:
Mindful movement enhances our body awareness, helping us notice subtle changes and sensations in real-time. By staying present during physical activity, we become more attuned to our bodies’ cues and can adjust our movements accordingly to avoid discomfort or injury.
2. Stress Reduction:
Engaging in mindful movement activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and reduces stress. This practice can help relieve tension and release pent-up emotions, leaving us feeling more balanced and centred. By focusing on the present moment and your body’s movements, you can temporarily shift your focus away from worries and daily stressors, promoting a sense of calm and tranquillity.
PLUS, when we move away from a weight-centric approach and let go of rigid rules around movement (i.e time spent, intensity, frequency, etc.) we experience less stress around the activity
3. Positive Body Image:
Mindful movement encourages self-acceptance and body neutrality. By appreciating the uniqueness of our bodies and embracing individuality, we shift our focus away from comparison and appearance-centric goals. Mindfulness emphasizes the awareness of the body without judgement.
4. Improved Mental Focus:
As we direct our attention to the present moment, mindful movement helps quiet our busy minds and allows us to experience a meditative state. As you engage in the practice, you train your mind to stay attentive and focused, improving your overall mental clarity and cognitive abilities. This can have positive effects not only during your movement practice but also in other areas of your life that require concentration.
5. Enhanced Mind-Body Connection:
Mindful movement cultivates a stronger mind-body connection. By bringing your attention to the physical sensations and movements of your body, you develop a deeper understanding of how your body functions and responds. This connection can lead to a greater appreciation and acceptance of your body, as well as improved coordination and movement efficiency.
For those recovering from an eating disorder or seeking to heal their relationship with movement, mindful movement can be a powerful tool. Unlike traditional exercise, which often perpetuates harmful beliefs and behaviors, mindful movement encourages self-care, prioritizes feeling good, and promotes individuality. By engaging in mindful movement, individuals gradually reestablish a healthy connection with their bodies, replacing disembodiment with a renewed appreciation for their physicality.
On this week’s podcast (episode 145), Jennifer, a practitioner and NIA trainer, shares her personal journey of transitioning from an exercise addiction to embracing mindful movement. By learning to listen to her body’s cues and staying present in the moment, Jennifer discovered a newfound appreciation for movement that serves her well-being.
NIA, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, emerged in the 1980s as a response to the prevalent fitness culture that promoted the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Founders Debbie and Carlos Roses, disillusioned by the harm they witnessed in the industry, sought a more body-friendly approach that honoured the human body. NIA combines elements of dance, martial arts, and healing arts, emphasizing the importance of listening to the body’s messages and staying present with its sensations.
Through imagery and various techniques, NIA guides practitioners to explore their bodies’ unique movements, express emotions, and celebrate individuality. By focusing on the present moment, mindful movement allows individuals to let go of expectations, trust their bodies, and accept themselves as they are.
To learn more about Jennifer and join her NIA classes, check out her website.
Embracing mindful movement begins with simple steps. Jennifer recommends starting with the breath and focusing on the feet, which provide a neutral body part for attention. Grounding oneself in the present moment through breath and feet awareness allows individuals to cultivate a mindful approach to move gradually. It’s essential to be patient with oneself, understanding that the process of coming home to the body takes time and compassion.
Mindful movement offers a refreshing and empowering alternative to traditional exercise practices. By staying present, listening to the body’s messages, and embracing individuality, individuals can cultivate a deeper connection with their bodies, foster healing, and promote overall well-being. Whether in a group setting or practicing alone, mindful movement invites us to move with intention, appreciation, and self.
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