Practicing mindfulness throughout the day is a great way to get the benefits of meditation without having to rely on formal sit-down practice.
One of the most accessible and beneficial ways you can do this is by using mindful movement meditation techniques to stay fit and healthy and expand the connection between mind and body.
Becoming more mindful and aware of the way your body moves throughout your daily life can have some really positive effects. In this article, we’ll look through them, exploring these key points:
- What is Mindful Movement?
- The Benefits of Mindful Movement
- 5 Great Ways to Practice Mindful Movement
- Becoming More Mindful Every Day
Ready? Let’s begin.
What Is Mindful Movement?
Different people define this term in different ways, but it’s pretty simple when you break it down.
Mindful movement means engaging in different physical exercises while placing focused attention on the movements of your body and the patterns of your breath.
This technique can manifest in a few different ways. For example, mindful meditators could focus on the weight of their feet or other bodily parts, or tune in to the tensing of certain leg or arm muscles. Exercises like running meditation take these principles to the next level.
Mindful movement isn’t just physical; it also anchors the mind in the present moment and opens your eyes to the sensory details of everyday experiences.
This can have some profound effects. Appreciating the subtleties of physical movement, getting in tune with the breath, and engaging your brain a little more will help you to appreciate the simple pleasures in life.
But the reasons to try out mindful movement extend beyond that. Let’s look at some of the key benefits of mindful movement meditation.
4 Benefits of Mindful Movement
Embracing the practice of mindful movement can have a positive effect on numerous aspects of your life.
Whether you want to manage stress and external pressure, quieten your busy mind a little, or just become a bit more physically active, there’s something in it for everyone.
Let’s explore the main advantages of this practice.
1. Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Mindful movement can help you manage feelings of stress and anxiety and reduce the impact of these negative thoughts and emotions on your life.
A recent Penn State study found that practicing mindful movement led to a dramatic reduction in the stress and anxiety levels of 158 students. The same report noted that students also became more active and mindful as a result.
2. Increased Physical Fitness
Simple exercises like mindful walking and yoga can get you off the sofa and moving your body in a healthy, but not too demanding way.
If you struggle to cultivate a regular physical exercise routine, this could be the perfect gateway into a healthier lifestyle. Research shows that mindfulness can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, improve immune responses and help decrease cognitive decline.
Mindful movement can help you get in tune with your body and become more confident, without you having to run a marathon or complete a triathlon. Whatever your current fitness levels are like, this practice can have a positive effect.
3. Improved Focus
In the modern world, we’re constantly running around, stressing out about tasks, activities and social events, without ever stopping to appreciate the present moment. Bringing mindfulness into your everyday physical movements can help you do this.
Taking the time to notice physical and mental sensations can be tough at first, but regularly practicing mindful movement exercises can develop your ability to focus on the present moment and manage distractions.
4. Better Sleep
Many of us struggle to sleep at night. There are loads of factors that can influence this, and you’ve probably heard a million potential solutions too! One that you may not have come across, however, is mindful movement.
One scientific review found that meditative movement can have a seriously positive effect on sleep quality. Taking a few minutes to settle your mind and body before bed can help you fall asleep faster and get a better rest once you do.
There are plenty of other benefits of mindful movement, and the effects you see will differ from person to person; however, these are the key ones.
5 Great Ways to Practice Mindful Movement
Now that you know all about the advantages of mindful movement, it’s time to dive into a few useful exercises you can use to access them.
These techniques can fit around your daily schedule in a totally natural way, and with time, they can make you a calmer, more focused, and less stressed person.
1. Walking meditation
When we go about our daily lives, we often operate on autopilot. Physical movement is a great opportunity to move out of this mode, and mindful walking is perhaps the easiest technique you can try.
Mindful walking is a form of meditation in motion. As you move, become more aware of the physical sensations in your body. Notice your surroundings and how they change as you walk. This can be done on the street, in a field, through some woods — wherever!
Become aware of the muscles in your body and note any tensions you can feel. Notice the weight of your legs and the feeling of your feet touching the ground.
Listen to the sounds around you; can you hear birdsong, or the wind, or passing cars? What can you smell? What can you see? Think about the temperature outside and how it’s affecting your body. Notice these things in the present moment, then let them pass by.
These simple steps can ground you in the present moment and expand your awareness, both in terms of your physical surroundings and your bodily sensations.
2. Walking Contemplation
Here’s a simple exercise that relates closely to the previous one, but focuses a little more on the contemplative aspect of mindful walking.
1. First, allocate a convenient time and place for your practice.
2. Stand still, and bring your awareness to certain bodily sensations, like the ground beneath your feet, the wind in your hair, or the pace of your breath.
3. Focus on the breath and the way it moves in and out. Begin matching your breath with your steps, if you can, and fall into a regular motion. Each time your mind begins to drift, bring your focus back to the breath.
4. Immerse yourself in the sensory stimuli around you. Notice your five senses and feel what’s happening in your body.
5. Relax a little and allow your mind to go wherever it likes, moving your focus away from one thing and contemplating the experience of mindful walking more generally. After a while, stand still for a few seconds and feel the peace and calmness of this moment.
3. Passing Through a Door
As you leave one space and enter another, you naturally re-adjust to your surroundings. Applying the principles of mindful movement meditation in these moments can increase your sense of awareness and bring your attention to the present moment.
Next time you walk through a door, simply pause, just for a few seconds. Think about the differences between the new environment you’re in, and the one you just left. Look at the door, and think about the physical sensations of opening or closing it.
To help you remember to practice this technique, you could place a sticker of an image on the doors in your home. This is a simple way to practice mindful movement throughout your day, particularly if you work from home.
4. Yoga: Mindfulness in Movement
Yoga is one of the most popular examples of mindful movement we have, although many people don’t even realize that this is what it is.
But think about it: in yoga, you’re practicing breath control, adopting specific bodily postures, and meditating in the present moment, in order to induce calmness, relaxation, and various other benefits. This is the essence of mindful movement.
There are loads of different forms of yoga, each with its own benefits and core ideas. Yoga can be used to increase flexibility, soothe muscle tensions, and boost the physical health of runners and other athletes.
Practices like Vinyasa Yoga can reduce stress and anxiety, increase stability and balance, and build muscle strength, along with various other benefits. Yoga mindfulness is one of the best daily applications of mindful movement meditation.
5. Mindful Movement Sleep Meditation
Mindful movement sleep meditation can combine the benefits of mindful movement with a common problem — getting to sleep. If you find it difficult to get proper rest at night, intentional movement could provide some solutions.
Certain gravity poses, such as plow pose or standing forward bend, can be great for turning the blood flow around and bringing a sense of calmness and vitality.
Performing a body scan is another way to become more mindful of your body before bed. This involves focusing on the sensations in your head, before gradually moving down your body and letting go of physical tensions in the present moment.
There are other ways you can prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep, too. For instance, you could have a mindful massage, or you could practice a mindful breathing technique.
Our article on sleep meditation unpacked includes more guidance on mindfulness for sleep.
Becoming more mindful every day
The mindful movement exercises we’ve explored today can have a profound impact on your life.
As we’ve explored, mindful movement meditation can enhance focus, reduce stress and anxiety, induce calmness, increase physical health and improve sleep. This long list of benefits is surely enough to get anyone practicing!
If you’re unsure about which techniques might suit you best, why not start off with a simple walking meditation, before finding out more about yoga and the positive impact it can have.
For more guidance on how the world of mindfulness can improve your life and help you develop a calmer approach to things, check out our article on mindfulness vs meditation.