|Labyrinth at Burford Priory, courtesy of St. James's Piccadilly|
Fast forward to the 1990s, when yoga and pilates were gaining ground in gyms and studios nation wide. The mind-body committee of IDEA Health and Fitness Association termed mind-body exercise as "physical exercise executed with profoundly inwardly directed focus" and should include one of more of these qualities:
- inner mental focus
- concentration on muscular movements
- synchronization of movements with breathing patterns
- attention to form and alignment
- a belief in the "live energy" such as a prana or chi
Still with me? Good! Here's my take on all this. Basically a mind-body exercise requires you to connect your brain with your body to function in unison rather than just go through the motions with little regard to form, function or feeling. Personally I feel that my choice of movement is a mind-body method if it challenges me to clear my mind of extraneous chatter while really cuing in to what I want my body to do.
Here are some examples of what I consider mind-body exercises
- swimming with kick board and applying pilates principles (shoulders back and down, navel drawn in and up, legs straight and butt engaged)
- hula hooping with my eyes closed
- walking while focusing on the alignment of my feet and over all posture
- ballet class
- pilates, especially on the reformer
- inhaling for count of 4, and exhaling for a count of 8. (sometimes I do this to help fall asleep)
- running with attention to form and the sound of the wind in the trees
- spine stretch forward. This exercise is a whole different thing that just a hamstring stretch when you concentrate on form, deep engagement of the abs and lengthening through the low back!
And what's not so much*
- reading while on your cardio machine of choice
- just going through the motions while on weight machines
- doing anything at the gym while watching TV.
- taking a yoga class purely for the stretching benefit with little attention to form and breath
* Now, don't get upset if you enjoy these things. They are great ways to exercise and reap the benefits of physical activity. Love 'em? Then by all means do them!
Anyway, just my two cents worth. When I read about mind-body exercises in fitness trade magazines I find a lot of creates an exclusive, sometimes expensive, mysterious feel to mind-body programs, which I think turns off some and leaves others out all together. I think we could all benefit from turning off the electronic hubbub around us and tuning into what were are doing at the moment.
What do you think? Do you have a mind-body routine? Do you connect to your workouts or prefer to just get them over and done? Would love to hear your thoughts. . .