My husband is the most zen person I know. I jokingly refer to him as human Xanex. He never stresses about the future unless there is something he actually should be stressing about. Even then, it’s not really stress. More like intense preparation and contemplation. And he doesn’t even have to do meditation or yoga or read self help books or go to therapy to live so in the present moment. It’s just how he is.
I know, I hate him for it too.
Once when we were out walking the dogs, a woman ran past us. As she approached, Scott shushed me. We walked in silence as the random lady ran by, and I quietly wondered if I had somehow been married to a serial killer all these years. After she passed, he explained to me that the sound of feet hitting the pavement was one of his favorite noises. He told me how when he goes running, sometimes he’ll turn off the music just to listen to sound of his running. Seriously, who is this guy?
Even though my initial reaction was laughing and rolling my eyes at him (my reaction to most things that come out of my husband’s mouth), his comment really stuck with me. I had always thought of yoga for building mindfulness and that ever elusive mind-body connection. I hadn’t thought of mindfulness as being a part of other types of exercise.
The Science of Mindful Movement
While I personally hadn’t thought of the role of mindfulness in physical activity, many other people have, and have been researching the topic over the years, especially the role of mindfulness may play in motivating physical activity and adherence to exercise regimens. While that’s all well and good, I’m much more interested in the role of mindfulness in helping people have a healthy relationship with movement, and to engage with it in a more pleasurable way.
In the eating disorder and intuitive eating world, mindful movement has long been used as a tool for helping people learn to tune back into their body when working out. Diet culture prescribes intense, militaristic exercise for weight loss. Because of that, many people have learned to disconnect from their body to push through pain and discomfort, so they can focus on burning calories. For people who have struggled with an eating disorder, exercise can become a compulsive eating disorder behavior, and can even lead to trauma. Even outside of the eating disorder realm, there’s cardio gym culture, that teaches people to mindlessly pound away on an elliptical or treadmill, perhaps reading a magazine or watching TV to make it bearable. It makes sense that many people learn to disconnect from their body during exercise.