Mindful awareness and Breath.
“What do you mean, breath? I breathe all the time…”
Yes, you’re totally right, you are breathing all the time, you have to.
However, the way we breathe can be different from person to person. This happens as a result of our physical body, our emotional body, social influences, our perception of how we think we should breathe, or a combination of all of that.
Breathing draws you inside (BB Cohen), it makes you more relaxed via the autonomic nervous system (Jerath, Ravinder, et al.) and if you are performing it mechanically how we were designed to, you are getting a heap of benefits! A few examples are: massaging our viscera (organs, like our stomach, and large and small intestines), creating a mechanical synthesis for our core canister between our diaphragm and pelvis, allowing connective tissue movement inside our rib cage, around our heart and through the rest of our body, and, can perhaps solve some pelvic floor pesky issues (read: urogenital) you may have been having.
Bottom line, learning correct breath mechanics can optimize a lot more than your exercise, and it’s worth it to spend some time getting there.
Mindfulness: what is it?
Simply put, it is the connection of your mind to what you are doing, where you are in the present moment. Making your brain and thoughts be glued to the here and now, not, “What is for dinner? Did I send that email? That girl on the next treadmill is running faster than me.”
Why is it good for you?
By keeping you focused on the present, it can help you find optimal movement to get ease, greater power generation, more efficiency and more fluid breath in your activities. Not only that, but among its theorized benefits are self-control (Bishop et al., 2004; Masicampo & Baumeister, 2007), objectivity (Adele & Feldman, 2004; Brown, Ryan, & Creswell, 2007; Shapiro, Carlson, Astin, & Freedman, 2006), enhanced flexibility (Adele & Feldman, 2004), improved concentration, sustained attention (Valentine, Sweet 1999), mental clarity, emotional intelligence (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006), and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance, and compassion (Fulton, 2005).
Who doesn’t want to be more compassionate?
What does it do to your brain and body:
Our brain is plastic, malleable, able to change. One of the simplest ways to change our brain is thought, another is exercise—put them together and you have a larger effect.
If we think of movement as coming from patterns that our brain has decided upon we can think of those patterns as roads that have been paved for driving. If we think that car traffic is like the neurochemical magic signal sent from the brain that initiates movement, every time a car goes down the same road, it will travel the same way. If we begin to stop moving in the same way every time, the road starts to become desolate, grown over and over time, it may be hard to find.
The machine of new thought around movement can start to create a new road, that travels via a different movement pattern, and with that thought, the brain’s neurochemical magic initiation of movement, the car, can start to travel down the new road. Over time, that new road becomes the road of choice, the older road becomes obsolete.
Changing the nervous system is how to change movement, especially sub-optimal, or painful movement.
How to incorporate these things into our routine:
Here’s my tried and true recipe:
1. Knowledge: Here’s where I come in. You need to know what to do to move better. Everyone needs different things, this is true. However, most people need similar things. I have been treating bodies for a long time, and from my experience, I have taken the more common sub-optimal movement patterns and given you cues how to adjust and change them. The good news is, thinking about cues can only make you more mindful and aware, and over time, you just may find more ease with your movement.
2. Volume: Repetition is key! Mindful Physical Therapy exercises are designed to be done daily, multiple times. The more you drive the car down the new road, the faster the new road becomes the preferred route of your neurochemical magic signal.
3. Breath: Breath is our link from body to mind, it takes us inside. It also helps our “core” because of the crucial role the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms have with our breath and “core” stability.
4. Focus: This is a biggie. You must be in a quiet place, focused on you. No TV, phone, or music. Focus on your breath, movement, feeling, go inside. It just takes 5-10 minutes, you deserve it.
5. Emotion: Another important one. You will not know if you are always “doing it right” or have someone to cheer you on. There should be no self-judging. Try to allow yourself to be in this moment without wondering how you look, how it feels, or whether it is right or wrong.
6. Subtle: Inherently, this work is subtle. You are trying to drive changes in your brain via your body. It takes focus—when you start, you start small, and then we go bigger. First we create a strong foundation, then we build. This way to changing movement is efficient and intelligent, just like architecture.
P.S. I’ve done the work for you, my Mindful PT exercises will guide you to move better at home. Check out my store for more information.
BB Cohen – Laban & Performing Arts, 1988 – bodymindcentering.com
Bishop, Scott R., et al. “Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition.”Clinical psychology: Science and practice 11.3 (2004): 230-241.
Brown, Kirk Warren, Richard M. Ryan, and J. David Creswell. “Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects.” Psychological inquiry 18.4 (2007): 211-237.
Fulton, Paul R. “Mindfulness as Clinical Training.” (2005).
Hayes, Adele M., and Greg Feldman. “Clarifying the construct of mindfulness in the context of emotion regulation and the process of change in therapy.”Clinical Psychology: science and practice 11.3 (2004): 255-262.
Jerath, Ravinder, et al. “Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system.” Medical hypotheses 67.3 (2006): 566-571.
Masicampo, E. J., and Roy F. Baumeister. “Relating mindfulness and self-regulatory processes.” Psychological Inquiry 18.4 (2007): 255-258.
Shapiro, Shauna L., et al. “Mechanisms of mindfulness.” Journal of clinical psychology 62.3 (2006): 373-386.
Valentine, Elizabeth R., and Philip LG Sweet. “Meditation and attention: A comparison of the effects of concentrative and mindfulness meditation on sustained attention.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 2.1 (1999): 59-70.
Author: Diana Zotos Florio
Image: Scott Webb/Unsplash
Editor: Emily Bartran