More than a workout, mind-body exercises promote mental wellbeing by reducing stress and its physical consequences. Psychological benefits of mind-body practice include relaxation, better concentration, and improved mood. Practitioners can also expect an increase in strength and flexibility, better balance and coordination, improved reaction times, better lung function, heightened cardiovascular conditioning, and even weight loss.
A few of our favorite techniques include:
- Qigong – a Chinese practice using movement, affirmations, breathwork, visualizations, and meditation to improve the flow of “qi” (life force) and restore internal harmony.
- Tai Chi – a Chinese system of physical exercises that is also used to facilitate the flow of “qi” in the body with Yin-Yang movements. The balance of softness and strength, forward and backward, action and calm promotes good health and vitality.
- Yoga – a multidimensional system that includes stretching and strengthening poses, breathing exercises, and meditation practices to reconnect the practitioner with the universe and bring emotions and thoughts to stillness.
While plenty of Pure 21 Challengers love to incorporate these methods within their exercise regimen, these methods may not be meant for you. However, there are some mind-body practices that can easily be brought into any exercise session. Give these a try in your next workout or in your downtime:
The Body Scan is a classic meditation practice that you can do on your own or with a guided meditation recording. There are many variations, but the essence of it is to slowly bring your awareness to each individual part of your body as a way of simultaneously practicing mindfulness and connecting with the physical body. Throughout your workout, take note of every sensation you experience. When performing a squat, for example, use your inhale to shift your awareness to the lower body and your exhale to feel the powerful exertion in your heels.
When you have more time, practice the Body Scan in quiet stillness. This is called a Body Scan because, as you do it, you can imagine a bar scanning up or down your body very slowly. In this scenario, your mind is the bar. Start at the top or bottom of your body and work to the other end. If starting from the top, think about the very top of your head. How does it feel? Move down from there. Is your face holding tension? Relax every muscle you can. As you continue to move down your body, keep doing this question, answer, and response conversation with yourself. How does that body part feel? If it’s tense, consciously or not, relax that muscle. Keep going until every part of your body is fully relaxed. This practice is especially effective for relaxing your body right before bed.
This technique is especially helpful for people whose minds tend to wander during a seated meditation. As you hike outside or stroll on your carpeted indoor floors, be aware of the movement of your feet in every step. Left heel… ball… toes…. right heel… ball… toes. The only guideline is to keep your focus on the walking itself, and when you drift away into other thoughts (as you more than likely will), practice bringing yourself back to your steps without judgment. No matter the pace or location, reconnect with your feet to feel more grounded and connected.