Mindfulness may be the buzz word of the moment, but it is indeed backed up by science.
In fact, a recent Harvard Health article identified mindfulness as a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness. Given this information, let’s dive into understanding what mindfulness is, and how you can go about implementing it into your daily life.
Quite simply, mindfulness refers to the state of being completely in the present moment, no matter what you are doing – and accepting it without judgement.
As defined by the Greater Good Magazine, mindfulness means “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment through a gentle lens.” (hence no judgment). Furthermore, given that mindfulness is acceptance and complete attention to the present moment, this eliminates any room for the clutter of past; or the unknowing of future events. The result is everything from reduced stress and a better sense of well being, to improved relationships at work and at home. So, how can we put this valuable idea of mindfulness into practice?
The most common activity related to mindfulness is meditation. While this is a profoundly effective means of being in a state of complete awareness, there are plenty of other ways to attain and improve mindfulness.
For example, the Mayo Clinic lists breathing methods and guided imagery as other means to relax and connect the body and mind. But mindfulness can be cultivated informally by focusing attention on the moments in everyday life, as well as structured physical activity such as fitness classes. You may be surprised to discover how a wide variety of group fitness classes can produce significant gains in many areas of well being, but even more so when taking mindfulness into consideration. Some classes that stand out are:
Yoga: Yoga actually means unity of body and breath and is often related to meditation since the practice of Yoga was first designed with the intention of being a pre-cursor to meditation. Yoga would be one of the best group fitness classes for mindfulness along with its sister classes, Pilates and the hybrid of both; Fusion.
The common focus on breath work, alignment and proper technique in movements and postures make these classes ideal for enhancing mindfulness.
Group Cycling: You might not attribute the typical high energy vigor of spinning to mindfulness, but the combination of music, increased heart rate and rhythmical pedalling combine to create an incredibly effective mind/body connection, leading to a heightened level of both euphoria and mindfulness.
Buff Body and Le Barre: The common theme with these two different formats is really muscle conditioning. The focus on posture, breath, form and function while challenging muscle strength and endurance contribute to yet another means to effectively improve mindfulness. In fact, the development of kinaesthetic awareness through strength training and has been shown to increase muscle recruitment by up to 30%, thus improving training goal attainment.
Whatever class you decide on, keep your mind in the moment for best results. See you in class!