10 Reasons to Try Mind-Body Workouts - dummies

10 Reasons to Try Mind-Body Workouts

By Therese Iknoian

Maybe you aren’t quite convinced about this mind-body workout stuff, either because you can’t imagine being so low-key since you’re a dedicated endorphin junkie (you run 10 or 20 miles for fun on the weekends) or because you (ssssh!) don’t really exercise enough now and don’t think a meditative moment will fill the bill.

If you’re a workout fanatic, your exercise routine may be one-dimensional. A walk on the less-wild, less-rigid side, could help you discover something new about yourself inside and out. Remember: Mind-body workouts aren’t just about meditating!

Maybe you’re more prone to being prone mainly because you fear that exercise equals pain. For so long, exercise was supposed to hurt, or else the session wasn’t good enough. Well, folks, that’s old hat now. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt to do you good. Enter mind-body workouts. Less pain, you gain.

The reasons are more mental, more intuitive, a little more right-brained, a little less academic, and a little more about focus and contemplation. But they still count for a lot. The last three mentioned are the tenets to basic fitness that, in the mind-body context, take on a softer tone than the traditional interpretation. So take a look at some of the best reasons to step up to mind-body.

Experience a softer movement

Huh? Soft? Exercise? In mind-body workouts, you don’t jump, you don’t pound, you don’t slam yourself against walls, kick or jab invisible competitors, or carry heavy equipment. You just do. You often do it barefoot, with mellow music, and in softly lit rooms. You finish smiling, not gritting your teeth.

Try fitness that flows

Maybe something that’s soft is also always flowing — they go together. But maybe they don’t go together all the time. Flowing means the movement patterns all have round edges, not hard ones. There are no stop signs, just yield signs. There is no hot and cold, just warm and cozy

One movement just flows into the next. So it feels like a dance. Even if you aren’t dancing or you aren’t a dancer, you can feel as if you’re doing both: a fine feeling.

Relax with no demands for perfection

Most mind-body methods have a bit of a “whatever” attitude: Whatever you do is perfect. Compare that to something rigid like, say, ballet where every toenail has to be positioned just right.

Other than some forms, like Pilates or some styles of Hatha Yoga, that tend to be pretty structured in their positioning with only a flirt with leniency, most mind-body forms encourage you to do whatever feels right for you on any given day.

Feeling less flexible? Don’t put your leg out so far. You don’t have to copy the guy next to you or the instructor on the video tape. Just do what’s best for you, and that’s utterly divine.

Find your own limits without an instructor yelling in your face

Heard about classes called “boot camp” or “sergeant’s pride” or any number of names indicating that they’re overwhelmingly difficult? Classes where, no matter what you do, the instructor yells that you’re a slimy weakling? Well, when you do Yoga, Body Rolling, Chi Ball, or any other mind-body ­exercise, no one will ever call you a sissy because you can’t do enough or do it hard enough.

Enjoy inner peace and calm

Instead of finishing an exercise session feeling hyped up, you finish a mind-body session feeling centered and calm, yet still energetic and ready to face whatever is next on your schedule. You won’t have that buzzed and scattered feeling that regular exercise sometimes gives you, or even a major sense of fatigue and the need for a nap.

After a mind-body session, you’ll feel the relief you would as if you had an ocean’s stormy waves swirling high against your insides, slamming around for a way out, and they suddenly give way to the still, deep, blue calm of the peaceful waters you find off the Greek islands so famous in tourist pictures. Sound serene? You bet.

Breathe better

Yes, just breathing. As simple as it sounds, breathing is something everyone often forgets to do, especially in moments of tension or anxiety. Holding your breath tightens down your insides. All mind-body forms emphasize thorough and continued deep breaths. Focus exclusively on breathing and it can wash away the cares gnawing at your insides and cleanse your soul.

Find an inner focus

Mind-body methods aren’t only about what happens to your muscles, joints, and bones — although lots can happen to your physical body if you do certain methods in the right way. Mindful exercise is more about what happens within you while your muscles, joints and bones are in motion. Put your priority and focus on the inside, and the effects will move outward.

Gain strength without weights

No need to pump dumbbells, press barbells, or pull on elastic cords for a specified number of repetitions. Doing mind-body exercises develops your leg, torso, and upper-body strength, as well as your balance more than you ever imagined — as long as you do the right combination of movements.

You will develop lower-extremity, upper-body and torso strength, and balance that you never imagined if you execute the appropriate combination of movements and sequences.

Acquire flexibility without pain

The point of a mind-body workout is to do a particular exercise or movement only as long as it still feels good, so you can avoid pain. Do not push yourself so hard to extend your stretches before the body is ready, that will cause injury. Min-body workouts respect where the body is in this moment.

Get aerobic fitness without impact

You help your heart and lungs get stronger and healthier by doing mind-body exercises — a little or a lot depending on what you do and how you do it. But you won’t, or at least you shouldn’t, hurt. No grinding knees, complaining backs, pulled hamstrings, or any of those other miseries often brought on by high-impact exercise.

And, here’s that nice plus again: Being more fit can mean more calorie-burn, too, since toned and fit muscles demand more calories than fat does.