As we creep into the thick of winter whilst living in restrictive circumstances due to COVID, it's more important than ever to explore the theme of mindfulness in your every day life.
But have you considered applying mindfulness to your workouts?
This month, we're exploring Mindful Hibernation - a time where we can take a moment and check in on ourselves during these darker days. You can head over to our IGTV to find our Meditation in Hibernation series and take 10 mins out of your day to breathe and reconnect with Meditation Rocks.
But if meditation isn't your thing, you can still embrace mindfulness in your workouts. We speak to Brave Move, a fitness studio in Bristol, about how they integrate mindfulness in their workouts. Founder, Alice, is the queen of moving mindfully and shares with us some of her top tips on how to slow things down and listen to your body while working up a sweat.
Mindfulness in Movement:
We’re all guilty of not listening to our bodies when we’re working out. We exercise whilst watching the TV, over stretch ourselves into the 'perfect' pose or maybe hold ourselves back because we think I'm not fit enough.
The issue with this is that we override our body’s signals and miss out on a load of helpful information.
If we listen we can find out when to take rest, how to avoid injury or when to dig a little deeper; helping us build a fulfilling, long-lasting relationship with exercise that gets results.
This ‘listening’ can be described as mindful movement, helping us cut out the noise and tune into our body, and is why we teach about intuitive exercise at the Brave Move Fitness Studio.
Though with mindfulness traditionally being taught on a meditation cushion or yoga mat, it can be hard to understand how this art of being present can be found in other forms of exercise. So let me unpack what mindful movement is and give you some tips on using it to enhance your workouts:
What is Mindful Movement?
Put simply, mindful movement is about being fully aware of the experience of moving your body. Mindfulness can be described as openhearted awareness of the present moment.
Professor Mark Williams, the director of mindfulness at the School of Psychology at Oxford University says “most of us find that we sleep-walk through life, and become immune to life's riches” therefore mindfulness can be a way to “wake us up”. When exercising, these riches lie in listening to the intelligence of your body to inform how, when and why to move.
“Most of us find that we sleep-walk through life, and become immune to life's riches” - Professor Mark Williams
An important part of being mindful is doing it without judgment. It is this process of quieting down our inner critic that I believe has such importance for our modern approach to exercise.
The fitness world can be a breeding ground for comparing ourselves to others, poor body image and punishing workout regimes and it causes many to have damaging connotations with exercise.
Research by This Girl Can found that ‘the fear of being judged’ was the number one reason women didn’t exercise, whilst the chair from Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation said: "We know about 10% of men in the gym may have muscle dysmorphia."
But we all need to move, and a healthy relationship with doing so is crucial. Therefore, being present, listening to your body and learning to put down any criticism is vital in looking after yourself, inside and out.
How can I exercise mindfully?
At Brave Move we teach Online Mindful HIIT or Mindful HIIT (low impact) that will take you through how to be present during a fast-moving, sweaty, cardio workout; helping you prevent injury, increase enjoyment and challenge your body respectfully. Win! But you don’t need to join us to start practicing your own mindful movement, so here is a guide to get you started:
1. Check-in with yourself
Take a few minutes before you start exercising to sit quietly and focus on your breath or do a quick body scan. Ask yourself: what do I need from my workout?
Whether it is to look after an old injury or sweat out a stressful day, use what comes up to set an intention for your workout.
When you start exercising, keep this observation going. Bring your attention to the sensations in the body, the environment around you, or noticing any thoughts that come up. Then just like a cloud passing by, acknowledge it and then let it move on.
3. Reflect on your movements
After you exercise, take a few moments to rest and reflect. What differences can you feel in the body then from the start? How do you feel emotionally? What lessons came up? If you like, you may want to note these thoughts down in a journal to help you keep track of your experiences.
It might feel strange at first and you’ll have days when you feel more intuitive than others - that’s just life! But the more you practice the more natural listening to your body becomes; helping you create a long-lasting love for movement that celebrates all that you have!
Enjoy and keep moving, for you.
Brave Move was created to recognise the everyday moments of courage that get us where we want to be. Founder, Alice, wanted to bring creativity and an open mind to the exercise experience, helping others beat the barriers they face starting and excelling in a healthy lifestyle programme.
Brave Move has it's own studio in Bristol that brings together like-minded health professionals that want to bring you more than just fitness - to reflect that good health lives, breathes and moves through every aspect of our lives and it is something we all deserve. Say hi to them over on instagram: @wearebravemove
You can find Brave Move's digital classes and Bristol in-person sessions on MoveGB - book today!