Exercise

  • There’s More to Looking After Our Bodies Than Diet & Exercise

    1

    Let’s start by saying that a good diet and exercise are super ways to nurture our bodies! However, there is no shortage of advice on eating well and working out. Instead, we will look at other, less obvious ways to ground ourselves in body and find enriching physical experiences.

    Becoming more connected and in tune with our physical bodies is an effective way of being more mindful. In bringing awareness to our physical experience, we naturally come to the present moment, using our senses as anchors. It can also help us adopt a more self-nurturing and self-compassionate approach toward ourselves.

    Mindful Movement

    Mindful movement practices sometimes double up as exercise. For example, yoga is great for strengthening muscles as well as practicing mindfulness. Yet, there are other ways we can practice mindful movement; ways which focus less on fitness or weight loss, and more on enjoying simple bodily movements.

    Those of us who spend all day at a computer may particularly benefit from connecting with our bodies more. How often do we reach the end of the working day and discover tightness in the shoulders or an achy back? We can be so focussed on our work or studies that we disconnect from the body. Yet if we make a habit of regularly checking in with the body, we can give it more movement and flexibility.

    So right now, tune in for a moment. How does your body feel? Sense into your feet, legs, back, shoulders, even down through your hands to your fingers. Are there any parts of the body that want to stretch or wiggle? If you feel comfortable with it, why not stand up for a moment and get curious about how your body wants to move.

    Maybe you feel like bending forward to touch the ground, rolling your shoulders, circling your hips, or raising your arms above your head for stretch. You can’t get this wrong; it’s all about noticing your current experience, and meeting it with openness. Notice how any stretching or movements affect your mood or energy levels. Have some fun with it!

    Comfort and Cosiness

    There’s nothing like putting on your favourite pyjama’s and curling up in a freshly made bed to read a good book. Or perhaps your favourite comfort is to wear some fluffy socks as you watch TV with your cat. Whatever makes you feel cosy, try to do these things regularly, as a way of treating your body with kindness and care.

    Sensory Pleasures

    This could mean so many different things; from finding a shower gel in your favourite scent, to being touched by your partner in a certain way (or touching yourself). Getting to know what feels, smells, looks or sounds good to us, and consciously gifting them to ourselves, is important for our well-being. It helps us engage with the physical world around us.

    We can use these pleasurable sensations as a type of meditation. For example, we can listen to our favourite songs and notice all the musical elements. We might place things around our home that we enjoy admiring in detail. Bringing more awareness to our sensory experiences may help us start to enjoy things we normally do in auto-pilot, such as brushing our teeth or applying moisturiser.

    Our bodies don’t need to be perfect in order for us to enjoy the physical world around us. Having fitness or healthy eating goals can be very rewarding, however taking the time to look after our bodies in other ways is important too. When we step out of thinking of our bodies as a ‘project’ that needs work, we can start to enjoy the fact that we have a body that can move, feel and experience the world.

    << VIEW COURSE & WORKSHOP CALENDAR >>

     

  • Applying Mindfulness in Sport

    SportsWritten by Oliver Dixon

    Whilst the hectic, high pressure environment of professional sport might seem like the last place you would expect mindfulness to be utilised, the practice is actually becoming increasingly popular among professional organisations, particularly in the US. Michael Gervais uses it with the Seattle Seahawks, George Mumford has used mindfulness with numerous championship winning NBA teams including the Lakers and Bulls, and Novak Djokovic, who is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has described mindfulness as the secret of his success. Here we look at several ways that mindfulness can be applied in sport.

    Improved Focus

    A major issue in sport which leads to poor performance is misplaced focus. This can be caused by ruminating on previous mistakes (e.g. a missed shot), or trying to predict the future. An example of this is when athletes are said to have ‘choked’; surrendering a lead because they felt the pressure, and more than likely have run through hundreds of possible scenarios in their mind for how the rest of the match could pan out.

    Applying techniques such as mindful breathing can help keep you grounded in the present moment. Being more able to move on from mistakes or stop yourself thinking too far ahead ensures that you can stay fully focused on the next play.

    Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of the thoughts we have, not in a judgemental way but to simply recognise and observe them. This awareness is the first step in recognising what you are mentally saying to yourself during sport, and the results might be surprising. You’ll often find just how critical you are; comments you wouldn’t say to other people. When these thoughts are illuminated by awareness it then becomes easier to let them go, or at the very least not believe in them as truth.

    Novak Djokovic commented, “I used to freeze up whenever I made a mistake... Now when I blow a serve or shank a forehand, I still get those flashes of self-doubt but I know how to handle them: I acknowledge the negative thoughts and let them slide by, focusing on the moment.”

    Self-Regulation

    The practice of mindfulness helps us cultivate self-regulation of our emotions. The ability to react to another player’s action without emotion is often the difference between a wise decision and one that loses the game. Sport can be a hugely stressful environment, with so many factors being out of your control, and mindfulness practices have been shown to greatly reduce stress.

    Mindfulness also teaches you how to connect your mind and body, through exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation. This heightened mind-body connection means you can be more attuned to signals your body is giving off during sport. For example, you might notice when the red mist begins to descend earlier than before by recognising stress and tension in the muscles, or become aware of a possible muscle injury before it becomes serious.

    Visualisation

    One of the most powerful techniques in sport psychology is visualisation. By picturing your next shot or game, you can plan responses to different scenarios. However, if practiced incorrectly it can lead to negative results. Incorrect use of visualisation usually occurs due to a lack of control of the images you create, and can cause visualisations to be ineffective or even negative. For example, excessively visualising what could go wrong would likely result in a loss of confidence or cause anxiety. Mindfulness can help to increase the level of control you can have over your visualisation, through quieting the mind and allowing you to focus on only relevant information. It can also help you utilise all five senses to increase the vividness of the image, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise.

    So next time you’re playing sport and you miss an easy chance, or make a mistake, rather than let negative self-talk and rumination distract you from your game, take a deep breath, centre yourself in the present moment and carry on enjoying the game!

    << VIEW COURSE & WORKSHOP CALENDAR >>