Mindfulness is getting a lot of attention recently and for good reason, It works. The issue with mindfulness becoming more mainstream is when what mindfulness actually means can get lost in all the marketing and hype.
Mindful movement has been practiced in martial arts and yoga for 100s of years but for the regular gym goer it’s quite a new term. In yoga we use the breath to anchor the mind and synchronise it with movement. Ashtanga Yoga is a fantastic example of this practice. There are little cues given by the teacher other than counting (so you know whether to inhale or exhale).
It was further reinforced to my movement practice during my apprenticeship with GMB Fitness. From day one the emphasis was always on the movement. Only after it was completed to the best of my ability did I move on to the next rep. This was very different to other exercise programs where you have to hit a certain number of reps and sets. The downside of sets and reps is form. It will often be sacrificed in exchange for hitting the required amount of reps.
Below I have outline 4 steps to help you build a more mindful movement practice.
Steps to Implement Mindfulness Into Your Movement Practice
1. Slow Down
As we tire in a movement we tend to rush through it and get it over with. Slowing down the movement is the easiest way to ensure you are doing it correctly especially when starting out. Once you become proficient you can add more speed but do it slowly in the beginning.
2. Use Quality and Ease
This is another rating scale that GMB introduced to me. Focusing on executing a movement with quality and ease so each rep looks smooth and fluid. This will be difficult to achieve when learning new movements. They’ll feel clunky and difficult but the end goal should always to to improve the quality and ease of execustion.
3. Use the Breath
The breath is one of the easiest ways to practice mindfulness. It’s used in yoga and meditation and it can work in your movement practice too. When you are practicing a movement, how are you breathing? Is it controlled be it heavy or light depending on the intensity or is it all over the place? If you compare a seasoned runner with some just off the coach the breath control is completely different. The seasoned runner gets into a controlled cycle of breaths and strides. The new exerciser is just struggling to get the next gulp of air in. Slowing down and focusing on quality and ease will make it easier to control the breath,
4. Use Auto regulation
Auto regulation means you train intensity based on how you feel that day. So if you are feeling tired you may taking it a bit easier. If you feel on top of the world you crank it up a bit. Asking yourself question make What’s feeling tight? What’s feeling loose? How is your energy today? Is this week especially busy or calm?
Regardless of how weak or tired you feel, start moving. Focus on what you are doing.
Use each set as an opportunity to improve the motor control, strength and positioning on the last one.
This required mindfulness to actually know how you are feeling at this moment. It also makes it easier to train daily without overtraining or picking up injuries.
Focus On The Process
One of the key benefits of developing mindfulness in your movement practice is, it gets you away from being only results orientated. Having fitness goals is great and it’s highly motivating but having this goal as the sole reason for moving can result in frustration and even quitting when the outcome doesn’t come as easily as you expected.
James Clear sums this up wonderfully below.
“We live in a world obsessed with results. Like Herrigel, we have a tendency to put so much emphasis on whether or not the arrow hits the target. If, however, we put that intensity and focus and sincerity into the process—where we place our feet, how we hold the bow, how we breathe during the release of the arrow—then hitting the bullseye is simply a side effect.
The point is not to worry about hitting the target. The point is to fall in love with the boredom of doing the work and embrace each piece of the process. The point is to take that moment of zanshin, that moment of complete awareness and focus, and carry it with you everywhere in life.
It is not the target that matters. It is not the finish line that matters. It is the way we approach the goal that matters. Everything is aiming. Zanshin.”
Isn’t this just a perfect example of how we should approach all activities in life? Positive results follow in all areas once we focus on mastering the fundamentals, be it in fitness, nutrition or business. Getting the basics down and enjoying the process is the key to long term sustainability.