Have you ever forced yourself through a workout or forced yourself to perform a move you felt your body should not have been doing? With a new year comes new crazy fitness routines that promise to whip you into shape if you just “power through the pain”. We are often told to disassociate or distract ourselves from the exertion or pain. These forceful workouts can actually hinder motivation and take the fun out of physical activity. Yes, physical activity can be fun, motivating, stress-reducing and improve overall wellness. Most importantly, it should feel good for our bodies.
Mindful movement is the practice of creating mental awareness around our physical movements and noticing how your body feels/reacts to those movements. It can be a powerful tool for connecting with your body and building a healthy relationship with exercise.
How does one exercise mindfully?
- Determine if you want to exercise and your motivation behind it.
Are you exercising for energy, to have fun with friends, or simple enjoyment or overall wellness? Or are you exercising to compensate for eating, feelings that you “must” exercise, or guilt for missing a few days of activity? If you answered to the later set of questions, you may want to explore your motivation or exercise.
- Ask yourself if you feel physically well enough to exercise.
Do you have the physical and mental energy to exercise and are pain free? Often times when we are physically weak, tired or sick, we think exercise will create an invigorating experience, when really it can do the opposite. When we are showing signs of illness or physical weakness it is our bodies way of telling us to slow down and rest. If it is the mental energy you lack, try mind-body movements such as yoga.
- Check in with your body before, during, and after movement.
Whether it be taking a short walk around the block, practicing yoga, or performing a moderately intense workout, take note of how your body feels and honor it. Before, ask yourself what type of movement your body feels up for. During, notice aspects such as is that stretch causing pain or too uncomfortable or the intensity of the workout too much? Modify or take the movement down a notch. Afterwards, how do you feel?
No matter how you choose to move your body, create space for your mental awareness and most importantly move in a way that feels right for you.