Mindful Movement: Exercises for Body Appreciation
By Kara Matheson
It is a normal part of growing up to feel awkward, unattractive and to dislike your body for one reason or another. Many people feel that their body is too fat, too short, too tall, too slow or too 'ugly', as if there is some ideal way that it should be.
They may never feel completely comfortable with the way their body is, nor completely at home in their body.
Any deep feelings of this kind that you or your child might have can change with a mindful experience of the body.
When practicing Mindful Movement, you tune into your body, into sensations and movements which you normally tune out because they are so familiar, and get in touch with how wonderful it is to have your body, no matter what it looks or feels like.
One form of Mindful Movement is gentle stretching and strengthening exercise.
This is done very slowly, without striving to change yourself, and without forcing yourself to do more than your body can safely achieve. In this exercise you practice accepting your body as you find it, from one moment to the next, as you stretch, or lift parts of the body, or balance.
This is very different to most exercise classes, which focus only on what the body is doing. In such body-oriented exercise there tends to be little explicit care given to what is going on in the mind, and how the body and mind affect each other.
Another form of Mindful Movement is Mindful Walking. This involves focusing on the sensations in your feet, or your legs, or maybe feeling your whole body moving. You can notice the tiny movements in the muscles in your feet as they adjust to keep you balanced. You slowly lift one foot off the floor, gently swing it forward, then lower it again, all in slow motion.
Because we tend to live life so unconsciously, we take things like the ability to walk for granted. When you pay attention to it, you will appreciate that it is an amazing balancing act, given the small surface area of the feet. This is the essence of Mindful Movement: learning to notice, appreciate, and enjoy the wonder of the body you have.
Some fun ways that you can help your children to connect mindfully with their body include:
- Practice Mindful Walking with your kids
- Stop & ask them what they noticed in their body when they walked really slowly, & what feelings & thoughts they noticed
- Then walk faster
- Stop & ask them what they noticed in their body this time. Did they notice feelings & thoughts as they walked quickly? Were they different this time?
- Do Mindful Walking again
- Again ask what they noticed in their body when they walked really slowly, & what feelings & thoughts they noticed
There is much to appreciate and enjoy in your body when you meet it mindfully.
Source: Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. 'Full Catastrophe Living. Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.' Dela Trade Paperbacks (2009).
About Kara Matheson
Kara Matheson teaches Mindful Movement as a part of her Mindful Kids and Parents Course. Kara offers this course face-to-face and online, for groups and individuals. Kara is a trained and experienced teacher of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for adults and children.