By Inge Gnatt
In April, Clare Hallas wrote about the Importance of Recovery in our Physical Training Plan. This article looks to further your understanding of training and maintaining our minds. I commonly hear frustration from teachers at people leaving before the end of class. I hope that this information will help BODYBALANCE® teachers to understand and pass on more benefits to our meditation practice, and maybe even recruit some of you hard core cardio junkies to stay and breathe with us!
As our lives become busier, stressful and demanding, the importance of finding balance in mind and body grows increasingly relevant. The medical fraternity from Doctors through to Dieticians and Psychologists are integrating mindfulness into their training, practice and treatment. Despite some methodological weaknesses, the research on the clinical application of mindfulness is promising. Research has shown a positive impact on the brain, as well as somatic conditions and as a consequence mindfulness is now offered as a non-pharmacological alternative to treat some conditions. Comparisons show increased brain function in multiple areas of the brain in people who meditate with direct benefits on emotional regulation and memory.
So what is mindfulness? Where can we find it? And how is it relevant to us as Instructors and People?
Mindfulness is based on the concept in Buddhist meditation, however the principles are universal, not necessarily spiritually based, and can be practiced anywhere. We practice mindfulness during the relaxation and meditation tracks in BODYBALANCE®. BODYBALANCE® (now recognised as ‘New Yoga’) brings mindfulness into the practice of union between mind, body and spirit. We often talk about being in the present moment, which is about mental focus and being authentic, a way of being or inhabiting our body and mind moment by moment. This allows us to stop, observe, breathe and then act.
A quick search through an online medical journal database produced the following results related to mindfulness: pain, emotion, addiction, learning, stress, immune function, mental fatigue, relationships, brain injury, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, mental disorder relapse prevention and the list goes on.
Indicative of the broad scope of impact, mindfulness has the potential to influence the quality of not only your life, but your friends, family and participants. Even if you are fit and well, the ability to see things more objectively, allow daily life to unfold, notice and deal with stress and enjoy a more peaceful mind surely sounds good. Mindfulness is not always easy, sometimes it’s a challenge to sit with our experience, thoughts, memories and fears. It takes courage and patience.
Keeping it simple
“We are only learning what we intuitively know but have perhaps forgotten” (Hassed, 2002)
As with any new skill, mindfulness takes practice. I personally started with the practice at the end of BODYBALANCE® then transferred my awareness of mind-body connection into every day life. There are lots of times where this could be useful at work, with loved ones, during stressful times and of course when we are teaching. Try this little task for fun when you have a few minutes.
Take a date or lindt ball. (Date is healthier and more interesting, lindt ball tastes way more awesome) Start by observing it, look, feel and smell. Notice what happens. Close your eyes and put it into your mouth, take the time to just observe the feeling of having it in your mouth, before chewing and swallowing it.
While we wouldn’t want to eat every mouthful of every meal in this way, it serves as an example of how we can add mindfulness to an everyday task.
Here’s another one: Next time you are speaking to someone turn on your third eye awareness and observe how you react when they are speaking. Do you pre-empt what they say? Have you already decided what their message is before they finish? Are you just waiting for your turn without listening? This is a perfect opportunity to bring some awareness back into your life and is important when you think of the quality of relationships with friends, family and people in your classes. After you have brought your attention to your reactions, switch off the third eye and allow yourself to really be present.
Maximising mindfulness for you in the long term
I find that the busier I become, the more prone I am to attempt to multi task, which risks doing too many things, not that well. Being present by being able to maintain sustained attention really helps in these situations. It allows us to recognise the feeling of stress for example, and react in a way that is more productive than acting habitually.
Next time you go to teach think about these ideas: What do you do to become present before class? Do you give yourself enough time beforehand to think about intentions or goals? And when you teach are you teaching to the people in front of you or are you regurgitating a preconceived notion of how you thought the class should go?
This is what works for me:
- Be present
- Know my purpose
- Identify the key messages
- Bring the message to life
- Make them land
I know that the second I made the shift to teaching authentically my teaching improved. I love it so much more and was able to cut through and make true connections.
Whether you wish to improve attention, decrease stress or just be more observant of the world around you, mindfulness is a great place to start. If you haven’t tried a BODYBALANCE® class, then I encourage you to try at least five and make sure you stay till the very end!! You may need courage and patience, but do persevere because one day it will become one part of your day or week that you look forward to the most.
Inge is a BODYBALANCE® Trainer and CXWORX® Presenter based in Melbourne. Inge's background is in Classical Ballet and she now divides her time between a corporate job, teaching and studying towards a Graduate Diploma in Psychology at Melbourne University.