Mindful Exercise: Benefits You May Not Be Getting from Your Current Routine
Unlike some other forms of exercise, yoga strengthens both the body and the mind. Mindfulness, a key aspect of yoga, offers several important benefits you may not be receiving from your fitness routine.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness makes it possible to experience the world around you calmly and without judgment through meditation and mindfulness practices. Meditation, one aspect of mindfulness, involves clearing your mind by focusing on a repeated word or image. Mindfulness involves acknowledging physical sensations, feelings and thoughts, yet not allowing discomfort or negative thoughts or feelings to become overwhelming or intrusive.
Adding mindfulness to your fitness routine offers these advantages:
- Fewer Aches and Pain. When you incorporate mindfulness in a yoga or exercise session, you'll observe the way each part of your body feels as you move your torso, head, neck, and limbs. When you're completely in tune with your body, it's much easier to recognize if a limb isn't perfectly aligned, or you're putting too much pressure on your hands during a pose. Recognizing these sensations may help you avoid pain and reduce your risk of injuries, whether you're practicing yoga, hiking, or lifting a heavy bag of groceries.
- A More Positive Attitude. If a negative thought crosses your mind, you'll acknowledge that feeling without giving it any emotional weight. For example, if you think "I'll never master this pose," or "I wish that tag on my shirt would stop rubbing against my neck," you'll let those thoughts drift from your mind without feeling discouraged, annoyed, or agitated. This same skill can help you deal with challenging situations in your personal life.
- Less Stress. When you exercise, your body increases its production of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. These hormones improve your mood, help you feel calm, and relieve pain naturally. Deep, yogic breathing offers another way to reduce stress. In fact, moderately stressed adults who completed a 5-week yoga program that included Yin yoga, psychoeducation and breathing exercises reported less anxiety, depression and sleep issues. Participants in the study, which appeared in the November 11, 2019 issue of Mindfulness, continued to use yogic breathing and mindfulness as ways to cope with stress even after the study ended.
- Improved Executive Function. Executive function helps you remember the items on your to-do list, organize your time, plan, and focus without becoming distracted. Unfortunately, your executive function may suffer when life is busy or stressful. If you have trouble remembering instructions, are always late, can't seem to get organized, or struggle to meet your goals, yoga and mindfulness may help you improve your executive function skills. A 2016 systematic review of yoga meditation studies revealed that practicing Hatha yoga may improve executive function in children and teens. The study, which was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, noted that more research on this subject is needed.
- More Accepting Attitude. Acceptance without judgment, a core component of mindfulness, helps you focus on what is rather than what could be. Rather than obsessing about the extra pounds you carry or the fact that you can't perform a pose without props yet, you'll accept and embrace your body as it is. As you become more accepting, you may find yourself becoming less judgemental of yourself and the people around you. Acceptance not only helps your yoga practice but may improve every aspect of your life.
Ready to add mindfulness and yoga to your fitness regimen? Contact the yoga studio for information about current classes and schedules.
Springer Link: Mindfulness: Yogic Breathing and Mindfulness as Stress Coping Mediate Positive Health Outcomes of Yoga, 11/11/2019
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Hatha Yoga and Executive Function: A Systematic Review, 2/3/2016
Forbes: 6 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness And Meditation, 7/14/2016
Yoga Journal: Bring More Mindfulness onto the Mat, 10/21/2008