Now I have nothing against pumping music to help motivate you through a tough workout, as it’s still easy to be aware of the body moving, and your breath, whilst listening to music.
TV is a worse distraction because your awareness moves completely out of the body and into the screen. Are you aware of your posture when East Enders in playing? How is your breathing, or are you holding your breath as you watch the penalty line-up on Match of the Day?
Some say this is what they want after a hard day of thinking - to not have to think about anything. But as many meditators will know, the benefit of mindful practice isn’t clearing the mind completely; it’s bringing your attention to just one focus, in this case your body, movement and breath. Stress relief comes by anchoring the restless mind onto one thing, and that’s not the TV screen!
Some fitness trends are moving more towards conscious mindful exercise, such as barefoot running, pilates and yoga. Leading gym Equinox has created Conscious Movement classes using “mental engagement, music, breath work, movement quality, community and respect to life”. In my mind any activity done with mindfulness can fit this description, such as walking, gardening and swimming.
But be aware that it’s not the activity that is conscious, you have to be with your body doing it. I’ve had occasions during yoga – the epitome of mindful exercise – when my mind has been elsewhere worrying about something at work. This is mindless yoga... I’m sure we’ve all experienced that at some time?
Another worrying trend is the increase in high intensity training because it helps weight drop fast, and is over quickly so can be fit into a busy day. But if you’re not ready for such exercise intensity, and you’re doing it quick so as to get on with the next activity, you may risk injury because your head and heart just aren’t present with your movement.
A good place to start is in your feet. On the treadmill are you clomping with elephant feet or lightly springing off the track? How does each step feel?
In the pool, can you feel the flow of water through your fingers as you pull? Or the wobble as your body works to balance itself in the water through each stroke?
Are you timing your breath with each weight lift and put down? When you lengthen and strengthen your breath you may find it supports your pose and lift to gain better results.
As you bring your attention to these aspects of your movement I hope you begin to appreciate how amazing the body is, such an intelligent system which knows exactly what to do to correct each misalignment and imbalance, if only you’d listen to it speak.
Join Rebecca for some conscious movement at her Yoga for Sport class each Friday at Yogaspace