Have you ever craved a seaweed salad? I know – it’s crazy, right?
Well, that’s just what happened to me last weekend after a pretty amazing yoga class. This wasn’t a power yoga class with lots of sun salutations, but more of mindful movement providing lots of modifications and focusing on breath work.
When class ended, I felt more aware of my body and wanted to treat it with loving kindness.
I find that when I add more mindful movement to my routine, taking care not to overdo it, I tend to naturally gravitate towards more healthful ways of eating and nourishing my body. That seaweed salad, for example.
Of course yoga is not the only way to mindfully move your body, but it is certainly a growing trend. Data collected by Ipsos Public Affairs on behalf of Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance showed a dramatic increase in the number of practitioners and size of the yoga industry since the prior 2012 study.
There are now 37.6 million yoga practitioners up from 20.4 million in 2012.
So Why the Big Interest in Yoga?
A study conducted by Emily A. Impett, Jennifer J. Daubenmier, and Allegra L. Hirschman in 2006 examined the potential of yoga to buffer against the harmful effects of self-objectification, as well as to promote body awareness and responsiveness, and overall well-being. Results showed that women in the study “objectified their own bodies less after participation in the program”.
The study also found that “more frequent yoga practice was associated with increased body awareness, positive affect, and satisfaction with life”.
These findings help explain why after a mindful yoga class we feel driven to do more health supportive activities for our bodies – like eating healthfully, meditating, and practicing other forms of enjoyable exercise.
Additional research has found the more widely-known benefits of a regular yoga practice include:
- Building strength
- Improving flexibility
- Improving balance
- Improving posture
- Boosting immune system
- Improving sleep
- Helping regulate hormones
- Lowering blog sugar
- Relieving stress
- Increasing focus
- Bettering self-esteem
Additionally, researchers in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found a 40% drop in levels of a stress-activated enzyme in hospital intensive care workers after completing an 8-week program including yoga, meditation, and music therapy.
Less stressed workers = happier workers.
Knowing these benefits, it shouldn’t be a surprise that in addition to other mindfulness-based practices, yoga is becoming more and more prevalent in treatment programs for eating disorders, including BED (Binge Eating Disorder).
But Yoga’s Not Your Only Option
If yoga isn’t your thing, there are other ways to move your body mindfully.
Here at Green Mountain at Fox Run, LynnAnn Covell, our fitness manager, leads a Walk of Mindfulness to our labyrinth. During this time, she guides participants through mindful breathing, mindful thinking, and actually feeling the ground beneath your feet, elevating the senses: touch, sounds, and even smells that may be in and around the wooded area where our labyrinth lies.
For me, when I’m walking I occasionally do a body scan – noticing my feet on the earth, consciously engaging my core, lengthening my spine, relaxing my shoulders and being aware of my breath.
You can also strength train mindfully by focusing on the specific muscle group that you’re working. Qigong, Pilates, and Tai Chi can also be mindful movement activities.
Practicing mindful movement and adding loving nourishment translates into some sweet self care.