10 Popular Mind-Body Methods - dummies

By Therese Iknoian

You are not the only one with a growing interest in what is now called mind-body fitness. Fascination and demand are spreading like wildfire. These are the most prominent and developing mind-body practices.

Mind-Body Method #1: Yoga-rific

Hatha Yoga puts an emphasis on physical forms to help the mind. Added bonuses include increased balance, body awareness, alignment, strength, and flexibility.

A 2000 survey by IDEA, the association for fitness professionals, shows Yoga is among the top 10 programs being offered in health clubs and has nearly doubled in numbers in the four years prior to the survey, from a third of clubs offering it to two-thirds of clubs offering it. In addition, Yoga shows the third-highest rate of growth, coming in behind martial arts and boxing-based classes.

Mind-Body Method #2: Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan, commonly referred to simply as Tai Chi, is an ancient, flowing method that stresses inward focus and moving slowly through forms that require great balance and control. It is beautiful to watch and peaceful to perform.

Tai Chi Chuan didn’t make IDEA’s top 10, but if you dig down the list, you see that the numbers are still climbing. In 2000, more than a third of clubs offered Tai Chi classes, up from about only 1 in 7 clubs four years earlier.

Mind-Body Method #3: Queue up for Qigong

Qigong is an ancient Chinese movement art that takes its lead from the energy pathways in your body and the energy, or chi, that runs through them. The goal is to free up your chi with slow, flowing movement, and to allow it to flow more smoothly without road blocks to wriggle through caused by stress or ill health.

Better flowing chi, it is said, can lead to better health and happiness.

Mind-Body Method #4: Practice Pilates

Pilates is a structured method where participants move through exercises either on the floor or on various machines that emphasize mental focus on muscle control and alignment. Core strengthening — of the back and abdominals — is the real gem of this method.

Pilates offerings in health clubs have jumped wildly in the last couple of years. According to the 2000 IDEA survey, more than a third of clubs offer classes, where only 1 in 10 did three years earlier. Not only that, sales of the Reformer machine for Pilates exercises have more than doubled since 1998.

Mind-Body Method #4: Limber up with Laban

Laban is one of several methods that is less about fitness and more about function: that is, noticing how your body moves and becoming aware of that movement so you can function better in daily life. Movements are repeated, controlled, and analyzed.

Mind-Body Method #5: Pay attention to Feldenkrais

Feldenkrais demands great mental discipline because you repeat very small movements and are then asked to simply think about how your body felt while doing them. Through the increased awareness — often additionally honed in personal sessions with practitioners — you can move more freely in daily life and other sports, and get over nagging injuries or pains.

Mind-Body Method #6: Act up with Alexander

Alexander is less of a series of movements you practice than it is a way to think about what you do all the time. There is a great emphasis on the placement of the head and its carriage by your shoulders and neck since many people carry so much stress in that area.

Mind-Body Method #7: Flip for Inversion Therapy

Going upside down — or even partly upside down — isn’t for everybody, either because you may not be comfortable with the feeling or you have some illness or disease not recommended for the activity. If you can and like inverting yourself, you may like the relaxing feeling you can achieve as well as the way it loosens your entire back.

Mind-Body Method #8: Play around with Body Rolling

It’s a marvelous thing to be given a ball and be asked to sit on it, lie on it, and roll around on the floor with it. In Body Rolling, you can be a kid again, while using a special ball to massage and work your muscles all over.

Mind-Body Method #9: Roll the ball in the Chi Ball Method

The Chi Ball Method uses a soft ball that you hold in your hand and pass around your body, or just hold while doing movements reminiscent of Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan, Qigong, traditional aerobics, or other mind-body methods. Scented with different aromatherapy aromas, the ball is something to play with while the scents can help create the feelings you want or need.

Mind-Body Method #10: Discover NIA

Free-flowing dance-like moves are the essence of the NIA technique. You use your voice, feel your feet on the floor, and do moves that resemble everything from modern dance and martial arts, to Yoga and Tai Chi. It can be quite aerobic, depending on the level of intensity you choose for your movement.