I am a Mindful Movement Yoga Instructor but it wasn't always so. 7-years ago I would have described myself as a Fitness Instructor and then over the over the following years
years my clients have heard me refer to myself as a Fitness Pilates instructor, Beginners Running Coach and Freestyle Fitness Yoga teacher. More recently though I have come to discover that my motivation to teach comes much more from a place of wanting people to experience the joy of movement, for movements sake. My belief is that we need to move these remarkable bodies of ours more, and in many more ways than our everyday lives and movement patterns allow for. My work as a Mindfulness Teacher is now informing my yoga movement instruction in another way. Most notably in the sense I have now of being able to help people bring a greater awareness to the movement practice and to gain some temporary relief from being trapped within their busy minds/thoughts.
Clearly as a movement instructor I have some responsibility for people's safety in terms of the content of what we do together in class and in knowing where and when to cue people to use the breath to support the body, or to protect vulnerable areas such as the lower back or the wrists or shoulders. I would much rather though that my clients were able to make those choices for themselves though, instinctively and from a place of being guided by the innate wisdom of their own bodies. That is possible when we are able to tune in to the bodily experience and resist the pull and push of our striving, judgemental and overwhelmingly negative minds/thoughts.
My sense is that how the mind works is at odds with how the body works, with how it naturally is. That these pushing, striving, negative minds or ours can drive us to force and push our bodies into places where they would much more willingly and effectively go if we were to approach movement as being play with thoughts that supported us and gently and kindly coached us to a place of soft surrender.
In yoga we are doing movements and movement patterns which will allow for us to stretch (temporary lengthening of muscles) and mobilise our bodies in ways that can improve our overall flexibility, strength and wellbeing. For this kind of work to be effective though messages must be sent from the brain to the body to tell it that it is ok to relax and to allow the lengthening/movement to occur. If we are full of tension in our bodies and our minds are chattering away telling us we need to "work harder", "push harder" or other unhelpful thoughts like "why don't I look like her?" or "I should be able to do this" then this is going to undermine the bodies ability to relax and soften. If we can become aware of these thoughts through our mindfulness practices we can began to consciously replace them with other more helpful thoughts, delivered in kinder tones. For example we might begin to say things to ourselves like "it's ok, you can be with this, just as it is" or "you are doing great, relax and breathe".
Culturally we have become obsessed with 'doing' and 'having' and so we might see our movement practices as something we 'do' in order to 'have' something. Like for example we would do 'crunches' in order to have strong abdominal muscles. This is hopelessly flawed of course and not how the body works. In all the obsession with having a 'strong core' (that is a whole other blog!) we have perhaps forgotten that the body instinctively knows what to do and that it operates best when the body is moving. That our bodies are designed for movement and that, provided we are not injured or compromised in some way then we can trust them to do just that.
And although we may have got used to thinking of things in terms of bones and muscles the complexity of our bodies far exceeds what we even currently understand, an example being role and function of fascia (again another whole blog). And if you are interested in how your body works then we can do that kind of learning together in and out of class. But in the meantime we just need to move our bodies more and take the very best care of them we can.
And so it seems to me that our Mindfulness practices can support us in coming home to our bodies. When we are able to relate more lightly to our thoughts and drop our awareness into our bodily experience we can move from 'doing' to 'being'. We can in a sense come home to our bodies and develop a kinder, wiser and more accepting relationship with them. We can be playful and strong and we can enjoy moving for the joy of moving. And that is when the magic happens.
"change happens through movement and movement heals" - Joseph Pilates
More information on my Mindful Movement Yoga Classes can be found here and I am available for telephone consultations where I can recommend other Yoga teachers/classes based on what you tell me you need.