The Benefits of Conscious Movement

Unless you’re doing an exercise that is built around slow breathing and deep focus such as yoga or Pilates, the practice of mindfulness probably isn’t at the top of our list when you hit the gym.

But it should be. Fitness instructors and physical therapists champion mindfulness, aka, “conscious movement” as a key part out of any workout regime.

So what is conscious movement exactly?

Conscious movement isn’t new — but it’s gaining interest as our workouts intensify

First, it should be recognized that conscious movement may be a trending term, but it’s not a new concept Tai Chi Instructor Neil Rosiak notes the ancient practice of tai chi hinges on this style of slow, intentional and careful movement that highlights the mind-body connection.

“Mindful exercise is a key component of the training we do,” Rosaik says. “The first step is awareness of how one is standing and moving. Being conscious of how the whole body works together and using the minimum effort to move helps the way we move in all areas of life, including using proper structure, [preventing] injury, and [achieving] a calmer mind. Any physical activity can be done slowly and mindfully, however having someone watch one’s posture is important, especially at first.”

Mindfulness can help you zone in on building muscle where you want it

You should also use mindfulness when you’re working out a group of muscles that may be a problem area for you, like the abs or glutes.

"Movement should always be performed with a conscious mind-body connection, placing the focus on the muscles you're working regardless of the pace” This helps not only with technique but getting the most of out the exercise. Neurological evidence shows that our brains play a major role in regulating muscle movement and strength, so if you focus on contracting the muscle(s) you’re wanting to work your brain can send stronger signals, creating more muscle engagement, and helping them to work more efficiently, which also leads to better form, which equals better results and fewer injuries."

At your desk all day? Conscious movement to the rescue

Since conscious movement can be incorporated into most any physical activity, it’s a great technique to practice when you’re doing house chores or how you move at your desk.

Many times, being mindful and conscious of changing small behaviours can yield big results. Bottom line, our bodies are not designed to be still for extended periods of time — they're meant to move. Set an alarm on your phone as a reminder to get up and move. Walk, vacuum or go a park and have some fun on the swings. While walking, bending or lifting, be aware of your core and engage it — paying more attention to how you move will make you feel better, helps reduce pain in the lower back and inflammation in joints.

This is not a weight loss technique, but it certainly helps the journey

Conscious movement isn’t specifically designed for weight loss, but it is an effective tool to complement a more intensive fitness regimen.

For someone who regularly weight trains and runs outdoors, conscious movement includes walking and practicing yoga/pilates. Focusing on my breathing, flexibility and establishing a mind/muscle link has greatly enhanced the fluidity of my movements and the efficacy of my workouts whilst reminding me to be thankful for where i am at each and every moment.