Mindfulness in Movement

In a slight tangent from looking at the attitudinal foundation of mindfulness, this week I’m going to explore mindfulness and movement.

In practising yoga, or any other form of movement practice such as Tai Chi, it is possible to do it mindfully, and indeed that would be the intention. Mindful movement is introduced in week 3 of an 8-week mindfulness course. In mindful movement, as with other mindfulness practices, we are accessing the present moment through our current experience. Some people find it easier to remain present when the body is in motion, often they say there is more to hold their attention at these times and the sensations are stronger. In yoga we also approach any discomfort in the body in a similar way to how we approach it in mindfulness practices. We notice the sensations, hold them in awareness, perhaps breathe into and out from them, observing how they might flux and change in intensity over time.

To return to the theme of recent weeks, mindful movement provides us with a great opportunity to practice the attitudinal foundation of mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined this as comprising of seven facets: non-judgement, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance and letting go.

During a yoga session is the perfect time to practice trust and non-striving; if we don’t trust our own feelings and listen to the wisdom of our bodies, and instead stretch too far, then we risk injury. It is a time for acceptance too as we need to acknowledge any limitations of our body at the time. Having patience is also important so that we can hold postures and allow our practice to develop in its own time without us pushing too far too quickly. It is helpful to approach yoga with the quality of “beginner’s mind”, freeing ourselves from expectations based on past experience about how a particular posture or sequence will be. We can also notice the activity of the judging mind as we practice yoga, especially if we are in a class. Our mind may start telling us we’re not doing as well as other people, that we should be more flexible or that we’re not very good at a certain posture. So, we also need to be able to let go. Thoughts may come during the practice but, as in sitting meditation, the intention is to notice them without becoming involved in the content, gently guiding the mind back to focusing on the physical sensations in the body as it moves or holds a posture.

Having regularly attended yoga classes as part of my personal mindfulness practice for several years now, I very much feel that the two practices strongly support each other.

If you live near Exeter and are interested in exploring the integration of mindfulness and yoga, then you may be interested in the Spring Day Retreat I am co-facilitating with Nikki Darling Yoga in a couple of weeks on Saturday 7th April.

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