April 16, 2020

Discover the Benefits of Mindful Movement: Practicing Meditation in Motion

Is there a way to be in motion and still be practicing mindfulness? Absolutely. While many mindfulness practices are done in stillness, it’s not the only way. Sometimes movement is what the body and mind are needing.

A 2018 research study at Penn State explored the benefits of mindful movement, particularly on mood. “When people were both more mindful and more active than usual, they seem to have this extra decrease in negative affect,” Yang said. 

Increased concentration, mental clarity, focus, and overall energy are advantages of active mindfulness practice. Perhaps ironically, it can simultaneously create a greater sense of calm. 

Slowing Down

Unlike exercise where the main objective is to get in better physical shape, the main objective of mindful movement is to notice the sensations of the body in motion. Active mindfulness practice brings the mind and body in union which regulates the nervous system.

So, what if you chose to slow down from time to time – maybe from 4th gear to 2nd gear – deliberately paying attention to how it feels? Or, choosing to walk without a destination or time pressure? Seeing what it’s like to take this common daily activity off of autopilot periodically even for 10-20 deliberate steps.

Try a Brief Mindful Movement Practice Today

Fortunately, a variety of mindful movement options exist. Something playful in the morning after brushing your teeth? Silly facial stretches. Sitting at your desk? Maybe a short chair yoga break. Looking for a slower-paced full-body movement? Qigong. The list goes on. 

Below are some brief mindful movement practices to try for yourself.

Begin your day with a few stretches. Try the Mindful Stretching episode from our Mindful Movement on-demand content!

Mindful Walking (10+ minutes):

Engaging in this at a pace slower than your natural gait will provide heightened awareness at least in the beginning. While doing this:

  •       Be aware of the lifting, rolling from heel-to-toe, lifting again and then placement down of each foot.
  •       Stay focused on the flow of this process over and over, one foot at a time.
  •       After 10 – 15 steps, stand still, allowing your arms to rest by your sides.
  •       Notice the sensations in the body.
  •       When you’re ready, slowly rotate the body to face the direction from where you started.
  •       Take a deliberate pause again.
  •       When you’re ready, repeat the process.

Qigong (20 minutes):

According to the Qigong Institute, “Qigong is a very all-inclusive modern Chinese term that applies to integrated mind-body-breathing techniques and practices”. Originating thousands of years ago, it combines: movement, breathing and awareness. Qigong, a repetition of mindful movements, can be practiced sitting, standing or lying down.

Qigong can be used to both calm and energize the body. Like mindful walking, it alternates between periods of deliberate movement and periods of deliberate stillness.

More Inspiration to get moving is just moments away. Take a walk outside and listen to Mindful Walking in Nature on your mobile device, from our Mindful Movement on-demand content!

Chair Yoga:

When doing yoga our intention might be to get in a workout or perhaps master a pose. This is great. Chair yoga is a great opportunity to simply focus on the movement itself. Another benefit is that we can take a brief break from working at our desks while at our desks. In turn, this will benefit our concentration, focus and energy level.

Other Options

If you are interested in learning more about some of the research on mindfulness in motion programs, Dr. Maryanna Klatt, from The Ohio State University, has developed an 8-week program that has been delivered to a variety of populations. Here is one of her peer-reviewed journal articles on the application of mindful movement in high-stress work environments.

Dr. Tamara Russell, has developed a program that combines neuroscience, martial arts and mindfulness for those who find sitting practice challenging. 

What will you discover through your mindfulness practice? Explore your awareness to your heart and breath with the Body, Breath and Heart episode from our Mindful Movement on-demand content!

Written by Ninette Hupp, MSW, LMSW, eM Life Teacher.