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why mindful movement matters

Mindfulness gained popularity in the past few decades as a secular way to experience the benefits of meditation. It’s become so common as to almost be cliched. Your employer is encouraging mindfulness as a means to reduce stress (and lower their own costs). Your favorite actors go on regular mindfulness retreats. And now the many folks in the fitness industry are suggesting that their version of mindful movement will be beneficial not just for your body but for your mind and soul.

let’s define mindfulness

Mindfulness is often defined as, “bringing awareness to the present moment in a non-judgmental way.” In mindfulness meditation ( simply become aware of things, as they are, without trying to change them. We let go of goals (even the seemingly harmless goal of trying to be more peaceful or relaxed) and allow things to be just as they are. The technique is quite simple, but the practice is not always easy.

Left to its own devices, our mind likes to dwell in what’s known as “default mode.” We ruminate on the past; fantasize about the future; commentate and color our current experience with narrative. Default mode is what’s operating when our mind is wandering or we’ve “tuned out.” It’s called “default mode” for a great reason— we spend most of our time in this state.

Mindfulness practice is a deliberate action of turning off default mode and training ourselves to be in a state of present-moment awareness. We can do this by deliberately bringing awareness to things like sensations, sounds, smells, sights, or even more interior experiences of breath, thought or emotion.

what makes movement “mindful?”

Movement becomes mindful when we direct our awareness to what our body is experiencing in the moment. That might be something as simple as feeling our feet planted on the ground, or the arm moving through the air. With greater awareness (and this can take more practice and skill), we can notice things like breath, muscular contractions or stretch sensations. We may also notice our more subtle interior physical reactions to the present moment experience , where we register embodied emotional reactions.