More than a workout, mind-body exercises promote mental wellbeing by reducing stress and its physical consequences. Psychological benefits of mind-body practice include relaxation, greater equanimity, better concentration, and improved mood. Practitioners can also expect an increase in strength and flexibility, better balance and coordination, improved reaction times, better lung function, heightened cardiovascular conditioning, and even weight loss.
A few of our favorite techniques include:
- Qigong – a Chinese practice using movement, affirmations, breathwork, visualizations, and meditation to improve the flow of “qi” (or life force) and restore internal harmony.
- Tai Chi – a Chinese system of physical exercises that is also used to facilitate the flow of “qi” in the body with Yin-Yang movements. The balance of softness and strength, forward and backward, action and calm promotes good health and vitality.
- Yoga – a multidimensional system that includes stretching and strengthening poses, breathing exercises, and meditation practices to reconnect the practitioner with the universe and move emotions and thoughts into stillness.
While plenty of our clients love to incorporate these methods within their exercise regimen, these methods may not be meant for you. The good thing is you can bring the mind-body connection to any physical activity. Give these a try in your next workout:
· Body Scan
The Body Scan is a classic meditation practice that you can do either on your own or with a guided meditation recording. There are many variations, but the essence of it is to slowly bring your awareness to each individual part of your body as a way of simultaneously practicing mindfulness and connecting with the physical body. Throughout your workout, take note of every sensation you experience. When performing a squat, for example, use your inhale to shift your awareness to the lower body and your exhale to feel the powerful exertion. When you have more time, practice the Body Scan by laying quietly in stillness. Our clients love to complete this practice right before bed.
· Mindful walking
This technique is especially helpful for people whose minds tend to wander during a seated meditation. As you hike outside or stroll on your carpeted indoor floors, be aware of the movement of your feet in every step. Left heel… ball… toes…. right heel… ball… toes. The only guideline is to keep your focus on the walking itself, and when you drift away into other thoughts (as you more than likely will), practice bringing yourself back to your steps without judgment. No matter the pace or location, reconnect with your feet to feel more grounded and connected.