Over the past years, mindfulness has become widely popular – and for good reason. Research  shows that the ancient practice of being fully present reduces stress and anxiety, eases depression and improves your sleep and attention span. What’s more, mindfulness can make it easier to manage chronic pain and stick to healthy habits.
Now you probably associate mindfulness with peacefully meditating in lotus for twenty minutes. But the thing is: you don’t have to sit still to practice mindfulness.
However, there are some practices that lend themselves really well to cultivate more mindfulness in your life. Take a look at 5 ways to practice mindfulness in motion.
1. Walking Meditation
You probably walk from one place to the next without paying much attention to your surroundings or your body. But walking actually is a perfect activity to calm your mind and center your body. All you have to do is focus on the physical sensations of your movements.
How does it actually feel to put one foot in front of the other? Mentally zoom in on your stride. Notice how your heels and soles of your feet touch the ground, the way your weight and balance shift with each step. Next, bring your awareness to the rest of your body. Do your arms swing relaxed by your sides? Or do you detect and tension in your hips, back or shoulders?
Simply observe how your body feels as your walking without any judgements. You can make any adjustments to the way you carry yourself if you like, but the point isn’t to improve your posture. A walking meditation is meant to turn your attention to your bodily sensations, instead of getting caught up in your thoughts.
For even more benefits form your walking meditation, walk barefoot to connect with the earth or try forest bathing. This Japanese practice of immersing yourself in the woods supports your heart health and can improve your immunity.
2. Tai Chi or Classic Martial Arts
Have you ever seen pictures of people practicing some kind of slow-motion karate in the park? Tai chi is a meditative style of martial arts, originating in ancient China, that integrates mind and body through breathing and awareness. By moving your body slowly and deliberately, not only can you improve your flexibility and fitness, but it also leads to a better flow of energy and a balanced state of mind.
Although martial arts are now mostly known from action movies, traditional katas in karate and aikido can also be done while controlling your breath, muscles and mind. Qiqong also incorporates slow flowing movements as a form of mindfulness in motion. Check out (online) classes if you’d like to learn more about moving meditation.
Yoga is the poster child of mindfulness in motion. These mind-body exercises combine movement, mental focus and controlled breathing to improve physical strength, balance and flexibility. What’s more, practicing meditative movement like yoga can also help reduce pain, anxiety and depression.
Luckily, you can easily infuse your daily asana practice with a little extra mindfulness. Instead of going through the motions or competitively focusing on getting better at challenging poses, simply pay attention to how your body feels. You can also use your breathing to dive deeper into forward bends or twists. Finally, end your practice with lying in Savasana to notice and release tension in your body and mind.
4. Intuitive dancing
You don’t have to know the hippest dance moves to reap the mindful benefits of dancing. What if, instead of focusing on getting your steps right, you turn off your mind, let your body do what it likes and just get lost in the music?
Intuitive dancing is a freestyle form of dance, where you simply let the rhythm guide the way your body moves. You get out of your head and become more aware of your body. Not only can this kind of self-expression be really freeing, strengthening the mind-body connection also helps you recognize early warning signals and makes it easier to practice self-care.
So put your favorite song on and dance your heart out!
Anyone who’s ever gotten their hands in the soil knows how wonderful gardening can be for your overall wellbeing. But pottering around in the garden is also a great example of mindfulness in motion.
Because gardening engages all your senses – the smell of flowers, wind in your hair and dirt on your face – it grounds you in the present moment. The slow pace, no distracting phone around and being in nature all make it easier to open up to your sensory experiences or turn your attention inwards for self-reflection.
And if that doesn’t convince you to head outside, the combination of gentle movement, fresh air and vitamin-D producing sunshine can even contribute to a longer lifespan.
The 5 activities above prove that you don’t have to sit still to cultivate mindfulness. If you’re just starting out, mindfulness meditation can surely help to teach you the basics. But once you’ve gotten the hang of it, bring that quiet awareness with you no matter what you’re doing.