Incorporating Meditative Movement Into Your Fitness Routine by Richard Hackworth
As a Tai Chi Instructor in Orlando, Florida with my wife since 1992, we have found that there is one thing that most people are missing from their fitness routines. That is the use of meditative movement for a balanced workout. Meditative Movement combines breath awareness, flowing movements, and mental focus. In order to meet the characteristics associated with meditative movement, these three elements must exhibit certain qualities:
- Regardless of the specific activity, the practitioner maintains a slow and deep breathing pattern.
- The intensity of the physical activity associated with meditative movement ranges from low to moderate.
- Meditative movement is characterized by an intense level of mental concentration.
Meditative movement may also be referred to as mindful meditation. Mindful meditation takes these characteristics a step further. It extends their application to general activities, for example walking, washing dishes or gardening may be done mindfully by changing the quality of attention, breath, and movement used during the activity.
Most people associate meditative movement with specific forms of exercise based on the intentional application of the mind-body connection. These popular exercise formats include yoga, tai chi, qigong, and Pilates.
According to a 2013 listing by StatisticBrain.com, 15 million people in the United States practice yoga and 8 million Americans practice Pilates. People practice these exercise formats for their ability to relieve stress, relax the mind and body, and improve physical fitness and health.
Many people practice yoga, Pilates, and other forms of meditative movement as part of their regular fitness regimen. They use their mind-body routine in a variety of ways:
- Prior to more demanding physical activity, meditative movement may be applied as a means to dynamically stretch and warm the muscles and joints as well as focus the mind.
- It may also be used as an extended cool down method to lengthen and relax muscles following vigorous physical activity.
The key to integrating meditative movement into a regular workout regimen lies in the intention. Why a person engages in meditative movement dictates when they do it as well as the type of meditative movement selected.
It is important to keep in mind many types of meditative movement act as fitness regimens with meditative aspects. Pilates function primarily as a rehabilitative form of exercise, which requires mental concentration for proper performance.
While yoga mainly focuses on the inner workings of the mind and spirit, the style of yoga practiced, informs how physically demanding it can be.
How To Incorporate Meditative Movement
- When practicing a form of meditative movement before or following another fitness activity, gage the level of intensity for both. If using the meditative movement to warm up, follow it with a workout suited to your current fitness level and objectives.
- If meditative movement follows your standard workout, Power Yoga might not be the best option unless you are exceptionally fit. A better choice might be a gentle restorative yoga class following your workout.
- If you prefer intense workouts, running, fitness boot camps, weight lifting, high intensity interval training, etc., it might be better to practice some form of meditative movement on an entirely different day. By integrating meditative movement into your workout regimen in this way, it acts as one of your post workout recovery techniques.
As mentioned previously, the intensity of your meditative movement session needs to adapt to its intended purpose. A meditative movement program intended to aid recovery needs to be less intense than the preceding workout. For example, a high intensity interval training session should not be followed by a Power Yoga class the next day. A Hatha Flow, Gentle Vinyasa, or Restorative Yoga class would better serve the purpose of muscle recovery.
Meditative movement does not need to be limited to certain modes of mind-body exercise. Any activity of low to moderate intensity may be transformed into meditative movement by incorporating the three characteristics of meditative movement into the activity.
Slowing and deepening the breath, performing the activity in a controlled and attentive manner while maintaining a mindful awareness of the breath and the action transforms walking, performing household chores or brushing one’s teeth into a form of meditative movement.
While the more mundane activities may not provide a noticeable physical workout, the mental and intrinsic physiological benefits, mental clarity, lower blood pressure, improved circulation and more, remain.
Moreover, while the physical benefits of traditional exercise are found in forms of meditative exercise such as Tai Chi, and yoga, the mental and emotional acumens of those are not obtained through traditional exercise, such as running, cycling, or weight training. This is something that should be a factor when planning a well-rounded fitness regimen.
About the author: Richard Hackworth is a full-time professional martial arts, Tai Chi Instructor and Life Coach in Ocoee, Florida who helps people restore their health and improve all aspects of their lives. He is the U.S. Director for the World Martial Arts Congress and was the first American to become certified as a teacher of the Yang Sheng (Healthy Life) Tai Chi system by graduating from the Masters Course in Beijing, China. https://healthylifetaichi.com