Many people go throughout their lives unaware of what their bodies are doing or feeling. Walking, moving, sitting, and breathing are so automatic, something we perfected as toddlers and never think about again. People who regularly abuse drugs or drink alcohol excessively can become used to numbing or suppressing what their bodies are really feeling and needing.
Yet, our bodies are also something we always have with us, and awareness of our physical selves can be an important way to bring out attention to the present moment. When our minds feel too filled with anxiety, depression, or troubling thoughts and addictive cravings, thinking about the feeling of your body and the way it moves through space can be an important way to feel calmer and awake in the present moment.
Here are some ways you can better understand the importance of this practice of "mindful movement," and use it to help you in your recovery.
Many people recognize the benefits of intense cardiovascular exercise as a way to maintain your health and well-being. However, recent research has suggested that only doing energetic exercise can be akin to eating an unbalanced diet. Moving slowly and deliberately, aware of your every move can be an important way to connect your mind and body in ways that can be enormously beneficial to your health.
Developing a solid "body sense" links different parts of your brain and body together, which can strengthen your body's parasympathetic and immune systems, leapfrogging your efforts to benefit your health, and increasing a sense of stability and happiness in your day-to-day life.
While going for a run, walk, or swim has great benefits in and of itself, there is a possibility you could end up injuring yourself through doing too much or using an incorrect technique, or putting too much stress on certain muscle groups. Paying careful attention to what your body is really going through can help you practice and exercise in the best way possible, so you truly support your needs.
Some of the most effective use of movement awareness has been in helping people cope with pain and discomfort. Several small-scale peer-reviewed studies, including one published in 2003 in The Journal of Rheumatology, and another from 2009's journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, have shown that patients with chronic pain experienced dramatic results in their healing from regularly practicing yoga or tai chi.
Often, when people feel physical pain, their first impulse is to try to escape from it, or take a painkiller to get rid of it. Yet, in fact, the best way to deal with pain is to shine a direct spotline upon it. Your body is wonderfully adept at sending you signals that let you know what parts of yourself are most in need of healing or relaxation. Pain can often best be understood as a strong "signal" that you have a physical need that should be cared for.
Although it's perfectly natural to want pain to go away, taking a moment to "listen" to the pain can help you find a real solution to what is wrong. For example, sometimes a headache is a sign you need more water, or a chance to stop and rest. Reducing stress, slowing down, and paying attention can help you harness the body's innate healing abilities.
There are a wide variety of opportunities to practice gentle exercises that can build your ability to recognize your own body's internal cues and recognize its needs. Yoga, tai chi, qigong, and aikido are all common ways to practice gentle and intentional movement.
Dance, modern dance especially, can also be a great way to practice being aware of your body's positions and movements. However you choose to exercise in this important way, you can find that building your body sense can help you live in a more healthy and less stressful way.
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