Pilates, Yoga and Feldenkrais can really capitalise on the practice of mindfulness
Mindfulness is originally a Buddhist term and is used a lot in clinical psychology for reducing stress, anxiety and depression. It is all about being in the present moment and allowing your thoughts, feelings and sensations to just be, without judgement. It is about being aware of the you without evaluation.
Exercise disciplines such as Pilates, Yoga and Feldenkrais can really capitalise on the practice of mindfulness to enhance practice and results. Making contact with what is as you move, breathe or relax can better help you learn the movement, improve your strength, mobility and reduce pain levels.
Mindful movement can be done through becoming aware of how you move. This can be done in the most simplest of ways, including:
Visualising the movement with closed eyes as you move
Visual representations and cues for your movement
Focusing on the sensations associated with the movement, such as muscles contracting or shortening, lengthening, stretching, or bones feeling heavy
Focusing on symmetry of movement across your body
Smooth and controlled movement
Mindfulness in movement allows for improved motor learning, or skill acquisition. By definition, human learning is any permanent change in behaviour, knowledge, skill or ability that cannot be ascribed to development or inherited growths. Motor learning is the process of learning a movement – from acquisition to practice. It requires the brain to 'write' motor programs amongst your nerve pathways using information about the movement, knowledge and experience. This includes the correct muscles to be used, the correct nerve pathways talking to the muscles, movement sequencing, timing and automation. To be more aware of your movement, you can 'write' your motor programs better to develop new movement habits and for them occur automatically. This is just like the preparatory activation of the deep pelvic stabilising muscles before your body moves to protect the spine and pelvis. Through thoughtful practice, your deep muscles can do just this!
Pain management for those with all sorts of pain associated with movement or postures benefit hugely from thoughtful movement. Pain is 'wired up' in the brain as 'pain movies" (as we've spoken about several times in our 'Pain Tales' posts). We know that subjective feelings about movement and pain can 'fire off' the pain experience in someone with persistent pain. Remembering that particular movements have always been painful, have caused pain before, evaluating movement experiences as 'good', 'bad' or fear that movement or exercise will make the pain worse – this can all get in the way of beating the pain cycle. By minimising these subjective describing words and judgements when exercising mindfully, it is often possible to move through the pain. This can establish new nerve pathways, movements that are no longer as threatening, less pain with activity and a potential breaking down of the pain cycle.
At The Fix Program, as physiotherapists, we truly believe and place a huge emphasis on mindful movement. Within our classes, we use a mix of strategies to bring you 'into the moment' with your exercise, to forget what's going on outside the studio, become more aware of your own movement patterns and to make change. And we see wonderful results in doing this.
Why not try practicing mindfulness in everything you do? From your exercise routines, to your work and home life. Live in the moment without judgemental thoughts getting in the way.