Yogis have been teaching the art of mindfulness and its effects on the body for centuries, but it has started making its way into other exercise regimes. The mainstream acceptance of mindfulness is growing, and here is why you should embrace it too.
Mind over Matter
Navy Seals, Surgeons, Police Officers, Ballerinas and Life Coaches (to name a few) are testaments to this way of thinking. They prove that their minds are just as powerful as their bodies, and in many cases use their minds to get more out of their bodies. Navy Seals undergo grueling physical and mental challenges, designed to break a person down before rebuilding them, Ballerina’s make the most physically challenging movements look effortless, despite the fact it is one of the most hardcore physical jobs you could have. Surgeons work under the toughest conditions, for extraordinarily long hours — their ability to stay calm, focused and nerve-free keeps their hands steady and their judgement clear. I could go on but you get the gist. They have a deep seeded belief in themselves and their abilities, and they are deeply connected to their bodies and recognise the signs of fatigue, pain and joy in different ways that the average person. This is because they can control more of their bodies reactions (matter) by using the powerful mantras and understandings they have gained from years of practice (mind).
How do I apply this to exercise?
I often tell my clientele that going into the gym with no aim is a guaranteed way to make your workout feel like torture. This is because in this state, your mind and body are not working together, they are separate and as such you will be getting mixed messages from both. Instead of leaving your class or session energised, you will leave drained and tired. No matter what is happening in your outside life, when you walk into your class or session you should be “talking to your body”.
Now this can be silent, and ideally should start as soon as you are getting into your active wear. Mine might go something like this: “Flic, well done on committing to exercise today. I can feel your fatigue; you are holding it in your back and the stress is in your shoulders. You are going to work today to relieve that. Our aim for today is to move that fatigue and tension”. Now it doesn’t matter if I am lifting weight, or doing a class, or dancing — that aim is in my mind. I leave it there and come back to it when my workout gets tough. If i am starting to feel “over it” in my class I think through it again — I ask myself “Flic do you still feel that fatigue and stress in the back and shoulders”? More often than not the answer is NO. And I smile to myself knowing I did what I set out to achieve. If the answer is YES, then I focus back on my workout as I clearly need more to get to my point of success. This effectively guarantees that my workout is always effective for me, and I leave feeling accomplished, which makes it easier to work out again in the week as I am not dreading it.
What other ways can I be mindful?
Meditation has been a game changer for me. There are lots of different types you can try. I am super active so I find that short meditation of 10 minutes works well for my body and mind. I use an app called “Headspace” on my phone daily. It takes some practice like anything else we do in life- but the techniques are easy to apply to any part of your life and begin to give you a greater sense of connection to the body. I can slow my own heart rate when I am stressed, I can acknowledge great pain without staying with it, and I can ease myself into a challenging workout when it gets tough.
I highly recommend spending some time building this mind-body connection, it is one of the most beautiful experiences you can have with yourself. Let me know what methods you find effective!