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Mindfulness is trending. We are encouraged to be mindful in our day- to -day life to ease our stress, anxiety, and even depression. The concept is regularly used to describe typical human activities such as mindful parenting, mindful eating, and mindful exercise.
But what exactly does it mean to be mindful? And what does any of it have to do with movement?
In the simplest of terms mindfulness means to be present in the current moment. To be mindful means we are paying attention to what is happening right now instead of ruminating on the past or planning for the future. Our mind may try to distract us with other thoughts, but we stay focused on the present moment.
Mindfulness can be as simple as focusing on our breath while waiting at a red light rather than stressing out that we may be late, or paying attention to the smell, touch and taste of the food we are eating rather than scarfing down lunch while scrolling through Facebook.
Being mindful is not nearly as easy as it sounds! It takes practice. Meditation is the formal practice of developing mindfulness. Meditation can take on many forms and can come from many traditions, both secular and spiritual.
Mindful movement is a means of bringing the practice of mindfulness to movement. Pilates is a mindful movement practice. We focus on breath to encourage muscular release and to connect our attention to the movements our bodies are engaged in and the sensations they create. Imagine a baby completely engrossed in her body. She is conscious of nothing but her foot as she reaches her hands towards it and bites her toes. Imagine her delight as the reach of her foot causes her to roll over. She is developing an awareness of the innate wisdom of movement. Rolling over is not something she is taught, she instinctively knows how to do it when she is ready. The movement pattern is created through mindful practice over and over until it is grooved into her brain.
Our bodies carry a lot of wisdom. If we pay attention, our bodies tell us much: when to sleep and when to wake, when we are hungry and when we are thirsty. Our bodies will tell us when to stay and when to go, when to hunker down and when to run. Through meditation and mindful movement we learn to listen to our body and respond without judgment.
Practicing mindful movement will make us more connected to the innate ability of our bodies. The combination of meditation and mindful movement can be a powerful vehicle to help us move away from the noisy, uncomfortable, stuck patterns in our heads and our bodies and toward peace, ease and freedom.