Mindfulness is probably a word you’ve heard a lot in recent years. It is linked with the eastern philosophies of yoga and meditation, yet it is a practice in its own right. Benefits of mindfulness include decreased stress, increased emotional regulation, management of mood, increased self-awareness, and a sense of connection.
For anyone attempting to achieve balance amidst the stressors of daily life, the practice of mindfulness is one that may be beneficial.
Now imagine mindful or intentional movement-that is moving your physical body with purpose….
Mindful movement is utilizing the power of focus on the present moment in concert with physical activity to create a space of self-awareness and reflection. For many this combination results in a meditative type state, offering mental clarity or even stillness.
Before I was ever exposed to mindfulness or mindful movement, I was introduced to the concept of meditation. Growing up I struggled with anxiety and was always seeking ways to manage and cope with general stressors. Meditation was suggested as a way to “clear my mind” and breathe.
One evening I found myself in a guided visualization class. There I was in a dimly lit room surrounded by others with the same intent listening to the soothing tones of the instructor and background music reflective of the eastern origin of the practice. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, so following along with the instructor’s script was relatively easy. Had the class stopped there I would have left feeling somewhat relaxed, perhaps with a sense of inner peace or accomplishment as I’d heard everyone recommending meditation claim to experience. But the class did not end with the visualization.
The Space of Silence
Instead, the instructor guided us to a space of silence. Complete silence. Silence except for the sounds of people shifting, of breathing, of my own inhalations, of my own exhalations, of me, swallowing.
In that space, I became hyper-aware of everything happening around and within my body. And the thoughts which I was hoping to put to rest for a bit were racing, along with some new thoughts about how loud I seemed to be breathing. I remember leaving feeling frustrated with that class.
Repeated attempts to achieve this place of mental stillness resulted in similar experiences. I assumed that meditation simply didn’t work for me. So I shelved meditation, continuing to search for other activities to manage anxieties and daily stress.
It was not until I encountered mindfulness that I got it. The concept was presented briefly by a lecturer in my doctoral program, but I did not revisit it until I began my clinical training at the local hospital. There I was introduced to mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy (MBCBT). As I began to incorporate MBCBT into my clinical work, I found myself trying the techniques out myself at home with success.
For me, mindfulness brought the clarity I was seeking. It did not do this by asking myself to empty my mind, but through acknowledging the thoughts and feelings as they were. It allowed me to hit the pause button for a moment; creating space to just breathe, to just be.
“Mindfulness is a conscious acknowledgment or awareness of all that surrounds you and all that is in you and finding acceptance of the present moment.”
Mindfulness is now something interwoven throughout my personal and professional life. When I work with patients, I describe mindfulness just as I did above; it is hitting the pause button. It offers a means of managing symptoms associated with mood disorders by providing that space to reflect and refocus.
I discovered incorporating physical movement into my practice of mindfulness while continuing my clinical training at the hospital. At this time, physical exercise began to play a larger role in my life and I found the act of being mindful was not limited to times when I was seated or still. In fact, combining exercise and mindfulness provided me with increased physical and emotional benefits. Overall, my stress was more easily managed.
The results I was always hoping to obtain in my initial meditation practice, were found in mindfulness and mindful movement of my physical body.
It does not matter whether this movement is achieved through gentle stretching, yoga, running, or more exertive exercises as long as the movement is done with intent.
The best part is that there is no right or wrong way to engage in mindful movement. It is a practice that encourages awareness of the mind-body connection. With repeated experience, this connection between the mind and body is often strengthened. Overall health and wellness may be improved, including increased management of concerns such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
Mindful Movement… The Class
If you think mindful movement seems like something that you may benefit from I invite you to check out my 4-week introductory class at The Studio. Each class is designed to increase your understanding of mindfulness. Time will be spent learning about the practice with an emphasis on engaging in mindfulness exercises, incorporating gentle stretching. It is my hope that everyone will take away an increased understanding of the practice of mindfulness, awareness of their mind-body connection, management of daily stressors, and tools to cope with symptoms of anxiety or depression. Interested? Contact me today!
A Little About Me
I graduated from Medaille College with my doctorate of psychology (PsyD) in clinical psychology, with a special training focus on health psychology. I have utilized MBCBT intensively for the past three years in my clinical work at Erie County Medical Center (ECMC). Other degrees include a masters of science in special education and adolescent english education. I have been practicing yoga and meditation since the early 2000’s with the incorporation of mindfulness in 2012. I have been taking yoga classes consistently for the past two years from local studios and am in the process of completing my 200-hour flow teacher certification course.
716.867.5301 | email@example.com