When you hear the term “mind-body” fitness, what image comes to mind? I bet I can guess – a warm, smelly yoga studio full of dirty hippies bathed in patchouli with their legs crossed, eyes closed, and chanting. You couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I would like to go on record as proclaiming that mind-body fitness is ANY type of fitness that you choose to bring your mind into the present moment. Whether you’re doing Crossfit or yoga, you can make any exercise you do mind-body focused. I know, I’m knocking down walls with this one. But stay with me – you’ll be glad you did.
What does it mean to be “present?” This term has so many definitions and other attachments to it that it can be challenging to strip it down to its purest form. I like the thought of being mind-ful, not mind-less.
What are your hands doing? Can you feel your toes? What are you pressed against or what is pressed against you? What do you hear? What do you smell? What does your breath sound like? ARE you breathing?!
Taking these things into consideration, being present and mindful is not checking out – it’s checking in. If anything it’s a heightened sense of awareness, not less. Observing the senses in the current, present, right-now moment will make ANY workout mind-body focused. It’s the heightened awareness that takes you away from the chatter of your brain, not being in a dark room listening to Tibetan singing bowls and contemplating your chakras (although I love both those things).
Try this game today. When you walk up or downstairs, feel your feet. down oWhat part of you foot touches the
stair first? Are you using the rail or not? Are youlooking down or up? Can you hear your breath? Does your breath change once you complete the staircase? OR try this one next time you wash your hands. What temperature does the water feel like? What does the soap feel like between your palms? Does the soap have a scent? These are small ways of bringing yourself into the actual present moment. Your ego mind is a continuous monologue that can only thrive by your attention to it. As soon as you take your focus off of that energy draining chatter, you actually change your consciousness… and all you did was pay attention to washing your hands.
So why is this important for exercise and fitness? When was the last time you were on a cardio machine at the gym without reading, texting, listening to your iPod, or watching TV? Can you even remember such a time?
THIS is where I find fault with any gym that I have ever been to. They are designed to keep your focus away from the ONLY reason you’re there to begin with! AAAAAAHHHHH!!! It drives me crazy! So many distractions when you should be internalizing and observing your muscles, your bones, your joints, your movements, your breathing, your hydration. In this world where multi-tasking is glorified, we end up doing countless activities without most of our conscious knowledge. Think about the things you’re missing. Or maybe you’re too “efficient” to even give thought to what you’re missing… hmmmm.
Here’s my big example. Of course I do Pilates, I teach dance and barre fitness and I practice yoga. The mindfulness of these activities just as they are have helped me to stay focused. But sometimes I need more work, so I hop on the elliptical machine. If I read, update Facebook so everyone knows I’m working out, or watch TV, I can be on there for 30 minutes and not really remember what I just did. Did I feel my glutes firing? What about my arms? Did I use my biceps at all or just pull with my hands? Well, I’m sweating so I guess something happened. What a waste of time!
Being in your body, moving and strengthening it is one of the few joys that we have on this planet. It’s yours.
You can will it to do what you ask, look the way you want, and usually it complies. I hate leaving the gym and not really remembering specifically what I did or what caused the tightness in my muscles or the wind in my breath. But if you bring your sense awareness with you to the gym – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, etc. then not only will you feel more connected consciously to your Self, but also you will get a better workout. I hate spending hours and hours exercising. I have found personally that staying present while exercising means I don’t have to do have as much as I would just mindlessly moving about. Now that’s efficient!