Wednesday 29 January 2014

Mindfulness - the power of the mind and how to incorporate it into our everyday life.

We live in a world of technological advances so great that we can now do many things at once without thinking about it. We have machines to do our washing, cooking and cleaning; machines that take us where we want and tell us what we want - when we want it!  All of these things only a half century ago would have taken considerable effort - involving both the body and the mind.

However, as the world has become more fast paced, the stress placed upon the average human has increased considerably - we're always attached to a mobile, answering an email and checking social media (I am guilty of all these) while our life passes us by.  So is it any wonder that there is a growing movement of mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment - only last week a delegate of the world's top business and political leaders were told how mindfulness could help them cope in a increasingly hectic world, and how in as little as 10 minutes a day they could gain inner peace by sitting down and focusing on their breathing and allowing their minds to wander.

Mindfulness can be found in many Eastern philosophy including yoga, Buddhism and Taoism, it can be described as bringing your mind into the moment and paying complete attention to that moment with openness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is also at the core of Pilates' practise;

Joeseph Pilates said'

"Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.  Our very life depends on it.  Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing" (Return to Life through Contrology)

What can it do?

Practising mindfulness is said to help with;

* being fully present in the here and now
* becoming more connected to the world and your surroundings
* increasing self awareness
* being more balanced emotionally
* becoming more calm and accepting
* decreasing stress and anxiety

Can mindfulness be good for my waistline?

There was an interesting study carried out by Harvard psychologists Langer and Crum, whereby they took 84 hotel attendants in 7 different hotels  They were cleaning an average of 15 rooms a day, each requiring half an hour of walking, bending, pushing, lifting, and carrying. These women were clearly getting a lot of good exercise, but they didn’t believe it: 66.6% of them reported not exercising regularly, and 36.8% said they didn’t get any exercise at all.  The researchers divided the groups into two, and gave one group an hour long presentation of how much exercise they were actually getting, the other group was told nothing and acted as the control group.

After 4 weeks (of no change in behaviour) - the group that had been given the presentation all showed a decrease in blood pressure, decrease in weight, decrease in body fat ratio and decrease in BMI when compared to the control group.

Weirdly, just by being mindful and thinking about how much exercise you do, seems to have a physiological affect.  The only change in the two groups was that one group was more aware of how much exercise they were actually getting.

How to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life

What the study does show is that the key is engagement (which is one of our key principles in Pilates).  In Pilates we do not randomly move limbs without complete engagement of the mind first targetting the required muscles with control - this needs to have complete concentration from the mind -
'Where the mind goes, the body follows' (Joseph Pilates).

Here are a few things you can do to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routines;

1. When brushing your teeth or having a shower, focus in on the activity - think about the taste, sensation, smells.

2. On a morning just sit for 10 minutes - switch off the tv, don't read, check emails or phone, until after your 'sit' and let your mind wander.

3. Do short bursts of mindfulness throughout the day - rather than one long session.

4. When kept waiting (traffic, call centre's etc), rather than get frustrated, use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

5. Learn to meditate.

So how are you going to be mindful today??

We will be incorporating more mindfulness and meditation within our current Pilates classes.  If you would be interested in longer meditation sessions then please let us know.

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