We all know that exercise is good for us, but what is it about movement that makes us feel better?
Firstly, it ensures that we are present by getting us out of heads, and into our bodies. Too much of modern life is spent sitting at a desk thinking, rather than barefoot on the ground, doing. Being present in our bodies allows us to experience life firsthand, instead of imagining or daydreaming. Plus, the concoction of feel-good chemicals coursing through us as we move makes us feel energised and vibrant while boosting circulation and improving focus.
Now that the benefits are clear, what makes movement mindful?
Breathing is key as it heightens our awareness of movement, empowering us to do so in a conscious, supported way, improving the quality of the physical experience as a result. Movement comes naturally to us. As kids, we thrive when playing, throwing a ball around or splashing about in a pool, almost as means of self-expression. As adults, movement can be just as liberating, because it provides an escape from our analytical minds, enabling us to simply reconnect with life.
For beginners, there are plenty of easy ways to start practicing conscious movement moving, such as
These gentle forms of movement are accessible to most people, and involve moving with the breath to make it a mindful experience. The most important thing is to find any type of movement that brings you joy, and that will be different for everyone.
Even if none of the options above appeal, you can still move to feel better today! An easy way to release tension is simply by shaking. It’s a time-tested technique in the animal world too. Often after experiencing trauma, pack animals will leave the herd to shake off fear or panic before rejoining the pack. Similarly, many qigong practices incorporate shaking to alleviate tension in the spine, jaw, belly and shoulders. Sometimes allowing yourself to be completely uncontrolled is also mindful as it provides a feeling of much-needed space in the body.
How much movement is enough?
As humans we are designed to move every day, but this doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or any organised form of exercise. A morning walk may be all you need to get out of your head, take in your surroundings and escape the thinking mind temporarily. After all, mindfulness is about being — not doing or achieving. Moving is a great way to return to our natural state and be led by our body’s innate wisdom.
Studies have also shown that the longest living people on earth move their body regularly, but not strenuously. They move throughout the day rather than spending hours a week body-building, and do so with intention, often while in nature.
When our mind and body are in sync, this is where the magic happens and we begin to reap an abundance of mental and physical benefits. Breathing is key to connecting the two, as it reflects our state of mind. For example, when our breathing is short and shallow, it activates our panic receptors which can create the feeling of fear, anxiety, stress or worry.
In contrast, when we soften our belly as we exhale and engage our diaphragm for a full, deep breath, our whole body relaxes. As simple as it seems, changing how we breathe is powerful enough to transform our entire outlook to one of clarity and calm.
If you would like to experience mindful movement and breathwork workshops firsthand, supported by expert practitioners, visit www.luminaretreats.com to book one of our upcoming wellness retreats. We look forward to welcoming you!