Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” As it pertains to fitness, it is an intense focus or visualization on the exercise you are doing at the time.
With mindful exercising, your mind is in tune with your body. For example, you are aware of what happens as you breathe: the rise and fall of your chest; the expanding of your ribs out and contracting back in; the contraction of your stomach muscles as you inhale and draw air into your lungs; back out on the exhale. You are intensely focused on nothing else but what you are doing at the present – breathing.
When you get your mind and body working together, they create a synergistic effect – together they can accomplish more than each one separately. If you are thinking about work or anything else but the exercise you are doing at the time, you are not getting the full benefit from your workout – the mindful effect.
To show you how powerful this really is, take the example of an experiment involving two groups of hotel maids, one group was told to focus on (be mindful) their daily tasks of vacuuming, changing sheets, scrubbing floors, and the other tasks hotel maids perform day in and day out. The second group was not given any special instructions. At the end of the experiment, the mindful group not only had lost more weight and inches, but they ended up with a smaller waist to hip ratio than the other group that was not mindful – an indicator the first group had a healthier Body Mass Index (BMI).
One of the best examples of mindful exercise by design is yoga. Not only is the physical body exercised, but so is the spiritual mind through an awareness of the here and now at the time.
In our hectic lives, it is hard to focus on just one thing when our mind is racing at 100 miles per hour. Mindful exercising brings that focus back to what you are doing at the time, thus getting the most benefit from the effort you are expending.
The mind is a powerful thing. By believing you are accomplishing something actually helps you reach the end state of accomplishing it. Not only is this beneficial in helping you reach your fitness goals, but it carries over to accomplishing other things in your daily life. You’ll also find you’ll have less stress, an improved mood, and a more positive outlook on life in general.