Our body releases endorphins when we exercise. Moving our bodies can generate positive feelings and improve our mood. However, exercising and finding the motivation for exercising can feel challenging at times. When exercise becomes a chore or an undesirable activity then we can lose some of the wonderful positive feelings that can result from exercising. Let’s put the word exercise aside, and instead exchange it with the idea of moving mindfully. Mindful movement is the idea that the mind and body are connected. When we move with focused awareness – we are moving mindfully.
Moving Mindfully: Yoga
Yoga is just one way that you can move mindfully. There are many styles of yoga and the practice can vary greatly depending on the style of yoga you try. Most people think of yoga as a physical practice only. However, the yoga postures (or asanas) are just one component of yoga. Traditionally, there are eight limbs of yoga. Two limbs of yoga that can be helpful in terms of beginning a mindful movement practice are Asana (postures) and Pranayama (breath regulation). Practising yoga allows you to begin coordinating your breath with movement. This type of breath and movement alignment comes with practice, so do not be worried if at first it seems difficult to follow all of the pose and breath instructions altogether. You will find your breath deepening as you move and perhaps you are able to stay in a pose a little longer than you expected when your attention is on your breath and body (rather than on your thoughts). Yoga teaches you to be present in the moment by using movement and breath as tools to become more aware of your mind and body.
The focus on your breath as you purposefully move into different poses requires focus and attention. There is a sense of calm when practising yoga, even when you are exerting effort. Through yoga you may learn to immerse yourself in your current experience by letting go of judgement and fully engaging in the practice - this is when you are moving mindfully. Your external life is out of focus and you are one with your mind and body as you move through posture sequences with your breath helping you to focus your attention.
Yoga is a wonderful choice for a mindful movement practice because the discipline of yoga aims to align the mind and body with each other. Overtime you may find that the patience and concentration you cultivate during your yoga practice becomes helpful when tackling obstacles in your life. Yoga is for everyone and there is a yoga style that is suitable for you and your body. Trying a few different styles can help you find a yoga style that feels right for you.