Mindful Movement: Why Being Present is Vital to Health and Well-being

Have you ever wondered why staying active can be difficult? It may be in part because you’re not there for the activity! If you enjoy yoga more than, say, an hour at the gym, it could be because yoga is mindful movement. Like Pilates, martial arts, and other mindful movement activities, yoga is not just about fitness. It’s also about getting focused, grounded, and in tune with your higher self.

Why Mindful Movement Matters

It may not be obvious, but think about the difference between a flowing vinyasa sequence and spending time on a treadmill with earphones on to distract you from your workout. When you practice yoga or other mindful movement activities with awareness, you’re present. You notice how your body moves. It’s a kind of meditation in motion.

While you may feel good after both, do you feel good during both? And why does it matter?

Susan Sommers, a Pilates instructor in based in New York City says describes mindfulfulness in Pilates as essential to both physical and mental well-being. Mindful movement can, she says, “help you get physically fit, but it also helps you pay attention, concentrate and remain aware.”

You’re much more likely to do things you enjoy, of course. That’s why mindful movement is more effective than “exercise.” If you want to make something a habit—a life-changing lifestyle habit—you’ll have to like doing it. Human nature simply doesn’t allow us to stick with things we don’t enjoy for very long.

A Transferable Habit

Presence is key in physical fitness as it is with other aspects of life—jobs, relationships, and many other things are more fulfilling when we’re present for them. We’re not just going through the motions waiting for the process to end so we can experience some future result or fulfil an obligation.

Mindful movement is valuable because it’s a habit we can transfer to everything we do.

“So often throughout our day we disconnect from the present moment,” says yoga and Pilates teacher Kristin McGee, author of Chair Yoga: Sit, Stretch, and Strengthen Your Way to a Happier, Healthier You. “When you start moving the body mindfully while fully focusing on the breath, you will find how centering it is.”

That ability to become centered allows us to move through life with more ease and less anxiety. In yoga, we  continually return to the breath. This anchors our minds and helps us move in and out of each pose with awareness. “Listen to your body,” yoga teachers tell us. They invite us to move with attention—to really tune into how our bodies feel, move, and respond in the pose.

When being present is effortless, you’re hooked, but the only way to make that shift is with practice. This doesn’t mean you can learn to love anything just by being present. It means that presence will teach you quickly whether something is for you. And when you find what is for you, you will be present easily, and you will stick with it longer.

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Maria Kuzmiak

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