Mindful exercise is about performing physical activity while focusing inward. The idea is that we try to let go of distractions and unrelated thoughts and focus our attention on our sensations, breath and the movements of the body.
Being mindful, allowing ourselves to pay full attention to our workout, means our exercise will be more effective. Mindful exercises are all about the quality, not quantity. Start by turning off the television or i-pad and focus your attention on your exercise, like jogging, biking or lifting weights, paying attention to your breath and movements.
With mindful exercise, you’re looking for a balance between discipline (i.e. sticking to a training schedule) and listening to the body’s needs, stretching our physical capacity without pushing ourselves to do something we don’t want or are not able to do safely and effectively.
Giving the body a day of rest when we’re tired, for example, can have both short and long-term benefits. Working out when we’re overly tired can increase our chances of injury, so we’re better off skipping our workout or choosing a less demanding form of exercise on that day.
Here are 5 mindfulness practices to improve your fitness routine:
- While lifting weights, put your full attention on the muscles you are strengthening. Feel your muscles contract and relax with each repetition. Allow your breath to be slow and steady;
- Whilst running, turn off the i-pad so that you’re listening to your sneakers, the rhythm of your breath and the movement of your arms;
- While 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;
- During spin class or when riding your bike, focus your mind on the movements of your leg muscles. Smile and take a moment to appreciate the miraculous co-ordination of your body to perform such a task.
- Practicing mindfulness while exercising is good for both the mind and the body. It’s important they’re both in sync with each other.
The repetitive nature of any exercises, provides a perfect training ground for the art of mindfulness. It is important to continue to practice the listed skills above and see the benefits extend beyond the gym, to every area of our lives.
It’s also a practice used in many cultures.