‘Modern mindfulness’ is a booming industry. In this hyper-connected, 24/7, fast-paced world, mindfulness has become part of the modern survival kit. To live with less stress, greater focus, and some semblance of balance, most of us accept that we must take/make time to find some peace in our world.
But what is ‘mindfulness’, exactly?
Unlike the practice of meditation, mindfulness is less about spirituality and more about concentration. In a nutshell, it encourages active, open attention to the present moment and physical awareness.
Mindfulness techniques can be applied in many formats, it is easy to do, accessible (hello, apps!), fun and these days it’s everywhere: it’s in our schools, workplaces, homes, board rooms and in sport across all codes.
It’s also being built into new fitness formats and packaged up as ‘mindful exercise’. This is one of the hottest fitness trends in 2017, and it is all about mind-body connection.
Let’s cut through the marketing noise for a moment and look at what makes an activity distinctly ‘mindful’. According to Ralph La Forge of Duke University, it should include:
- A self-reflective, present moment and non-judgmental sensory awareness.
- A perception of movement and spatial orientation.
- Focus on breathing.
- Attention to anatomical alignment.
- Awareness of intrinsic energy.
Turns out, Joseph Pilates brought us mindful exercise with the Pilates method, long before it was even a thing!
At the heart of the Pilates method is this idea of harmony between body and mind that is achieved only by combining mindful thought and awareness of breath, with the physicality of athletic movement.
This emphasis on mindfulness occurs across the six, core principles of Pilates:
- Centring: the mind creates focus and initiates energy to the centre of the body.
- Concentration: the mind must be present.
- Control: the mind connects with the body to create control of movement.
- Precision: the mind signals to the body to create precision in movement.
- Breath: the body and mind connect through breath to create rhythm and intention.
- Flow: the mind and body must work together in coordination, to create flow of movement.
There is growing recognition of the value of Pilates as a mindfulness exercise, with benefits spanning both clinical and every day contexts.
Studies show that mindfulness practice in Pilates can help people to:
- Improve memory.
- Train the brain: challenge body and mind at the same time.
- Improve nervous system health by firing up deep muscles and movement chains.
- Calm mind, body and spirit:
- Relieve anxiety and depression.
- Treat insomnia.
- Improve focus.
- Unlock creative thinking.
- Relieve stress.
- Assist chronic pain management.
- Reduce negative emotions/boost mood.
- Lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
- Help emotional regulation.
- Improve self-awareness.
- Boost confidence.
- Enhance happiness.
There is something deliciously cleansing about mindfulness in Pilates movement. The beauty of this method is that these skills translate so easily outside the studio, and can help you cope with life’s ups and downs.
Living mindfully is the way of the future!
Joseph Pilates said it best: “A body free from nervous tension and fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind, fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living.”