Mindfulness. You may have heard of the term. Another word for it is awareness. But how does this pertain to fitness and health? Why on earth do you hear it talked about in a yoga class?
I will try and sum it up in a few simple sentences.
Mindfulness is the connection of your thoughts to the task your body is doing. It is the connection of mind and body. Moreover, it is the reconnection of your head with your heart, the seat of emotion. It is connecting the reasons why you do something to the motives and emotions propelling you to act, react, or not act. It is the integration of action, thought, feeling and even soul.
On the practical side of this talk, mindfulness creates focus and drive. It helps you identify with yourself and your reasons. It also keeps you safer from attacks by criminals of all sorts, enables you to cope with stressful situations more easily and readily (not that there is anything easy about stress) and allows you to move beyond them quicker. Awareness can give you a clear-cut pathway for dealing with both negatives and positives in your life.
Most importantly, I think, mindfulness allows us to reconnect with ourselves. So often we go through the day wearing various hats. I, myself, wear the wife hat, instructor hat, writer hat, sloth hat (for those lazy days), hermit hat (for days when I’d rather not be seen in public), etc. The problem with hats is not how they define you but rather how you identify yourself with them. Often we–me included–disassociate our feelings and even our thoughts from the deed we perform. We get wrapped up in doing and being perceived by what we do by others. We leave ourselves behind and march on, only to stop at the end of the day (or week, or whatever length of time it takes) to wonder what benefit we have received from our actions.
Mind-body classes aim to help you reconnect with yourself. Many people take them to reduce stress, yet yoga and Pilates are so much more than that. They aim to get you to know or re-know yourself. There are days that I ask my students to think of one positive thing about themselves and to focus on it, to feel proud of it. See, mindfulness is not about self-judgment. It is about self-awareness and self-acceptance of both the good and the not-so-great parts that comprise you. We tend to act as judges, and judge ourselves most harshly of all.
Even if you don’t step into a mind-body class, taking a few minutes to breathe deeply, push away the distractions cluttering your head, and examining yourself in a positive, non-judgmental way lightens your stress load and brightens your day. If you can see past the clutter, the self-imposed negativity, and the other junk we store within ourselves, to find one thing to make our day, you will find that the deeds you accomplish find meaning. They no longer are the things that define you. Rather you are defining them.
So go on. Take a deep breath. Or two. Or three. Find something good about yourself. And smile. In the end, no deed, no great achievement, is worth nearly as much as you, your health, your emotional well being, and your sanity.