I can’t know what it is like for you, but for me, there is always the tendency to dissociate my head and body if given the opportunity to do so. It is a habit learned long ago that probably served me well in childhood, but at this time in my life, it is important to move beyond that habit!
Mindfulness hasn’t come easily to me, but I know how to be mindful, and I work to make it my preferred way of being on a daily basis. That said, there are some distinct occasions when I notice my capacity for mindfulness waivers. One of those times is during exercise.
I suspect that this might be true for many people because I hear my yoga instructor remind the class each week that, “Setting an intention does not mean telling yourself you intend to go to the grocery store after class!” – that’s the opposite of mindfulness!
She’ll also remind the class to “take your mind with you” as we move through a familiar series of stretches, because it’s easy to let your body do the work without even noticing the effect the motion might be having on the whole of you! It is as if we’re content to “go through the motions” without concern for what our body and mind might have to say to us about the work we’ve invited them to do!
Then, there’s the familiar comparing-ourselves-to-others dialog that often goes on in our heads whenever we’re in a typical exercise class. Never a beneficial habit, it often starts with the litany about what others are wearing (Why aren’t my workout clothes as nice as hers?). Then it may progress to other useless and often self-derogatory questions:
- Am I doing this right?
- Do I look silly moving this way?
- Why can’t I be graceful (like she is)?
The danger is, of course, that our self-talk takes over and while our bodies may be moving, we’re missing the benefits of being deeply in tuned to what we might learn from the experience of exercise –
- Where am I feeling this?
- How can I deepen this stretch?
- What would it feel like to pick up my pace a bit?
- How would it feel different if I did this same movement more slowly?
- Hmmm, my left side is much tighter than my right side today!
For me, the best exercise experiences occur when my mind and body stay together – when they help each other through the experience and teach each other what the WHOLE of me needs that day!
Self-talk is important, it is a way of consciously using what would otherwise ramble on as “monkey mind” with meaningless prattle or worse, persistent self-criticism. Using our minds to encourage, enlighten and uplift our bodies can be a beneficial way to stay mindful when engaged in exercise. Using our bodies to encourage, enlighten and uplift our minds is similarly a positive way to keep the two well-connected, recognizing them as a WHOLE body/mind, not two separate entities!
Wishing you a joyful experience of wholeness in your exercise encounters. . . hoping too, that you’ll remember your capacity to “be there” for yourself in a positive, meaningful and mindful way each time you do something good for yourself, like engaging in exercise for your body, mind and spirit!