Benefits of Mindfulness

Prince Harry and Prince William our talking about it.  School kids are talking about it and Ruby Wax is championing it.  What is it? Mindfulness, that relatively new buzz word. 

Did you know this week is Mental Health Awareness Week?  Obviously mindfulness is needed.

At Oxford University they even teach mindfulness based cognitive therapy or MBCT.  Ruby Wax studied it there and has now written a book “A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled.”  She offers mindful practices and solutions for adults, teenagers, and children to help them get through the day with great calm and clarity.  

In simple terms, mindfulness is being mind-full of what you are doing.  You bring your attention to that moment, helping you develop a sense of well-being to help you manoeuver throughout the day and make more thoughtful decisions. Often this can be done by just tuning in to your breath.

The phenomena of 21st century living is that we are bombarded with information, technology, more debt, more demands, more noise, more, more, more, which can lead to more stress and more anxiety which leads to bad health and before you know it a life has been cut short.  That’s the reality. 

Let’s face it, we will all experience degrees of stress so we just need tools to manage it.

Often we associate mindfulness with meditation.  Meditation generally has something of a ‘bad’ reputation. That is to say that a lot of people associate it with religion or esoteric ideas and they think that they can’t meditate unless they’re ‘spiritual’. This can be off-putting for someone who doesn’t hold any religious beliefs or who doesn’t like esoteric ideas in general.

 But in fact you can practice meditation whether you are religious or an atheist. All meditation really is, is a directed attempt to control your thoughts and the content of your mind and thereby to gain some peace and quiet or at least to be able to better understand the contents of your own brain.  

Mindfulness essentially gives us a tool that we can use to not only calm our thoughts and escape the stresses of the day but also reflect on the contents of our mind in the interests of self-improvement.

As a pilates teacher I consider pilates as a mindful practice and a moving mediation.  Here is a simple breathing exercise to help you just get the mind into your body, take ownership and connect. 

A 5 Step Mindful Pilates Exercise

1.    Sit tall, lengthening the spine.  Have the feeling of your weight dropping down your seat bones and the crown of your head lengthening upward.  Place your hands around the lower part of your ribcage towards the back.

2.    Inhale through your nose, focusing your breath to your back and the sides of your ribcage and as deep as you can.  You will feel your hands being gently pushed out as the sides and back of your ribs expand.

3.    Exhale through your mouth ensuring there is no tightness through the jaw.  As you exhale, you will feel your back retreat away from your hands as the ribs compress.  When you exhale, ensure that you expel every drop of air from the lungs and try to keep the abdominal muscles contracted.  Visualise you are squeezing all the juice out of an orange.

4.    This time, as you inhale imagine that you are taking the breath to the left side of your lower back and ribcage.  What did you feel?  You will find that the left side expands more as your focus and awareness has been taken to that area. 

5.     Repeat this on your right side.

This simple exercise shows just how much control we have over our body when we are mindful.  What else can we achieve by incorporating mindfulness into our daily lives?














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