If you’re like us, exercise is your time to de-stress. Life outside the studio is full of pressures, hassles and, sometimes, negative feelings so, when it’s time to work out, it’s time to forget about your troubles and enjoy some truly zen time.
So what happens when those negative thoughts or feelings try to creep in during your Pilates, Barre or Yoga session? That’s when it is time to practice mindfulness. Accrording to Bhante Gunaranta, mindfulness is ‘the quality of mind that notices and recognises.’ Thic Nhat Hanh, a Master Zen Monk, describes it as ‘the energy of meditation’. At its essence, mindfulness involves recognising these natural distractions (fear, self doubt, negative energy) and allowing them to pass through using positive thoughts or movements (like Pilates, Yoga and other forms of exercise).
So how do you make sure your class is a No Stress Zone using mindful movements? Well, here are a few tips:
Choose the right time
Making sure you’re in a good place to exercise mindfully is often as easy as choosing the right time of day (or night). Some of us are at our best in the morning, while others prefer to exercise after work. If you know your body and mind, you can pick a time when you are likely to get the best possible workout experience.
Find your centre
If you’ve done Pilates or Yoga before, you know that so much of our energy comes from our centre. This doesn’t just refer to our core (although that is a huge part of our practice), but to the balance and calm that lies within us. This can often be found through meditation and focus, which leads us to our next point…
Take a deep breath
In Pilates and Yoga classes, your breath is one of the first things your teacher will help you to find. Every movement in a series will have a preparatory breath in and then an exhalation to ‘drive’ the dynamic component of the exercise. If you’re finding yourself losing focus in class or allowing negative thoughts or feelings to distract you from your class journey, coming back to your breathing will often be enough to dispel those nasty vibes!
Focus on your objective
As you prepare for class, clearly envision your objectives: for this class and for your fitness journey. Maybe for this class it could be something as simple as just being stronger than your last class, holding one particularly challenging pose for longer or doing one exercise more confidently. Your long term fitness goals are good reminders of why you are in class to start with: maybe you are hoping to be stronger so you can play with your kids for longer, or you’re hoping to look amazing in your bikini. When the going gets tough, a return to these basic goals will quickly bring your focus back.
Listen to your teacher
This one seems obvious but it’s easy to forget! The quickest way to get back on track in class and drown out negative thoughts or feelings from within is to listen to the words of your teacher. Your teacher is your guide through the class and they are always rooting for you, so tune in to their words to ensure you’re doing each pose perfectly – and not getting distracted by your own inner voice.
So there you go! Five easy tips to ensure mindfulness and make sure you’re getting the most out of every single class. We’re all students (even your teachers!) and everyone has off days, but the important thing to remember is that every class is a journey – using mindfulness ensures you are making it your own.