In meditation, there is a distinction made between formal and informal practice. So, when someone says, “running/art/music is my meditation”, that could be called informal practice. The kind of ‘flow state’ we might access in these activities is informed by the foundation of regular, formal sitting meditation, where the skills of consistent practice (focus, self-regulation and insight) accumulate and can then be applied to other activities and everyday life.
It’s like my friend who keeps a jar of chopped up garlic and ginger in sake in the fridge, and then adds a spoonful of this concentrate to what she’s cooking, for the flavour to infuse the whole dish. If that makes sense… ; )
The same formal/informal practice benefits can be applied to mindful movement.
It can be super helpful to regularly spend time understanding and working on your movement habits, strengths and weaknesses, with skilled guidance. A class with me perhaps ; ) Yoga poses can be a useful part of this exploration. That could be called ‘formal’ movement practice. It is of course a psychological process of enquiry as well as physical, as these are not separate. (More on that another time).
As well as that kind of focused practice, informal mindful movement can support your overall physical and mental wellbeing. What happens when you infuse your daily life with small, moments of attention to your body and breath through movement? This can be super simple, just part of your daily tasks and routines….slowing down and being curious and non-judgmental about any physical sensations we notice in a deliberate pause.
You don’t need to have any particular skills to explore how moving your body in different ways puts you in touch with all kinds of physical sensations, and with how you feel in ALL the ways. The more regularly you move with a sense of deliberate intention and awareness, even in small ways, the more physical ease and a sense of connection to yourself, or ‘embodiment’, becomes available.
Feeling our feelings and being aware of what is happening for us in the moment, requires us to be in touch with our body’s sensations. That is of course a key factor in mental health. Informal mindful movement is a way of consistently creating these moments of connection to ourselves.
Mindful movement, of simply moving with intention and awareness, can be as simple as walking barefoot on some grass in the morning. Spreading your toes and feeling the cool dew on the soles of your feet.
The physical rhythm of going out for a walk is another wonderful way to connect. I like to walk for a minute or two opening to all the sounds, then a minute or two of feeling my body – feet grounding, breath moving my trunk, and then a few minutes of feeling a sense of integration and being fully present in the moment.
During isolation, many of us are walking every day, so it can be a good place to explore movement as a mindful practice, of connection, regulation and presence.
Also, variety in movement wakes up our mind/body communication pathways and can just feel freeing and fun. Dogs and kids might also join in happily and if you have teens it will be another rich source of parental embarrassment.
Here is some video inspiration ; )