Eastern cultures have taught us about the interconnectedness of mind and body fitness. In Eastern cultures, where competition and achievement are rarely addressed, one would never consider themselves “fit” because they completed a marathon or participated in an Ironman. Instead, the emphasis remains on achieving complete mind and body fitness: the key to true integration of one’s being.
In Western culture, we seem highly focused on physical fitness and weight loss, often at the expense of whole body fitness (which must include a mind that is fit and in tune with the body).
To achieve complete mind and body fitness, we must become mindful. Being mindful means being aware, being present in the moment. For example, if you are running on the treadmill while mentally preparing for how you are going to rush to your next appointment (and accomplish everything you need to do that day), you have lost the mind-body connection that will lead to inner peace and fitness.
To approach mind and body fitness, you need to begin by doing one task at a time. You need to focus only on exactly what you are doing at the moment. So, if you are on the treadmill, your focus might be on your rhythm, or on how you are breathing in and out. It can even be on whatever pain or good sensations your body is experiencing, but it can’t be on anything outside of what you are doing there.
Whether you have chosen to exercise your body to keep fit, get fit, lose weight, or gain strength, you need to remember that our bodies are designed to move and to feel well, and to receive pleasure and well being from movement.
Yoga and Tai Chi
For some people, certain types of exercises that are based on the mind-body connectedness are ideal. These forms of exercise require that the participant:
- synchronizes the movements with their breathing
- pays attention to the alignment of their body
- concentrates on the movements as they are preformed
- focuses internally
Yoga and Tai Chi are two types of mind body exercises that truly fit the concept of engaging all of the mind and all of the body when attempting to achieve complete fitness.
Pilates, Nia, Gyrokeinesis
Pilates is another form of exercise that requires a mind body connection, but doesn’t share the belief in a form of life energy as we see in yoga or Tai Chi. Some newer forms of exercise that emphasize the mind-body goal of fitness achievement are Nia and Gyrokinesis.
Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, Nia, and Gyrokinesis may be designed to help participants achieve the goal of complete mind and body fitness, but you can apply the principles to any form of exercise. First, you need to be mindful of what you are doing and totally focused on it. If you find your mind wandering away from your running or volleyball game (or what ever you are doing), then your goal should be to bring your attention back. As you focus more on being in the moment, you will come closer to the goal of complete mind and body fitness.
In the words of Fernando Pessoa, “ To be great, be whole, exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is you. Be whole in everything. Put all you are into the smallest thing you do. The whole moon gleams in every pool, it rides so high.”