I am sure that you will agree that in today’s modern society, we are all constantly physically and mentally stretched to our limits. Stress, anxiety, multi-tasking and non-stop days where we feel like we are on auto-pilot are the norm for most. Take one of my closest friends for example. She is a 29 year old mother of two beautiful but tiring toddlers and a Staffy who seriously needs to be walked daily otherwise destruction will ensue. Add to that, she works part time in a hospital, works full time as a domestic goddess, plays hockey at state league level and is a committed friend and family member. I constantly wonder how she can complete all of her day to day tasks without losing sense of herself (and her hair).
When I asked her how she does it, she explained that when she is at hockey, she is able to be in the moment. She focuses on only what is happening there and then. She doesn’t think about what’s for dinner, or what clients she will see tomorrow. She allows herself time to think about her own body, her movements, how her running technique feels and how satisfying it feels to hit a little white ball awfully hard. What she didn’t realise is that this is the definition of being mindful. Whilst it’s a buzzword at the moment, the mental training technique is both simple and powerful.
Sounds interesting I know, but this practice takes one away from autopilot. Research has showed that it is effective in reducing stress and undermining destructive emotive and cognitive processes which can lead to anxiety and depression. But what I find amazing is that research has actually shown positive physical changes. Mindfulness practice can lead to a decrease grey matter in the Amygdala (the brain’s centre associated with fear and stress). This in turn leads to thickening in the pre-frontal cortex. What results in an improved higher order functions within the brain such as concentration, decision making and overall awareness – pretty powerful stuff.
One of things I love focusing on in training sessions with clients is the neural connections created with attentive movement. For example, trying to feel glutes contract when completing a single leg deadlift. This allows a better quality of movement, decreased compensations and overall better muscle recruitment. The upside of this for me is, to achieve this, you must be solely focused on the present. You cannot practice quality movement without attention, and accepting the sensation created with movement. And ladies and gentlemen, this is the definition of mindfulness!