We've all experienced it before, "being in the zone" while doing an activity or exercise, feeling alive and clear headed after a great workout, but what does that mean really, "being in the zone"? In simple terms, Movement meditation can be experienced through training, and quieting the mind and practicing various techniques of concentration and awareness. Being aware of ones thoughts, but not getting caught up in the stories, cultivating increased presence through your exercise or workout regime. Movement meditation is the spiritual side of exercise.
We know how movement affects our bodies, burning the calories, trimming the waistline, developing more strength, and interestingly enough that same movement affects our mental, emotional and spiritual selves, too. When we exercise, there are chemical and emotional shifts in our mind-body state that allow us to clear the clutter of our minds and reconnect more deeply to our true beings, the spiritual self. Meditation feeds our spirits, allowing the natural process of life to unfold, being completely in the now. Understanding the spiritual side of exercise is so important because it allows us to calm and control our thoughts, increase joy and peace of mind, improve our concentration, creativity and reconnect with our essence. Exercise helps us to improve our physical health as well as our mental and emotional health.
So how does that work exactly? Basically, during meditation and exercise there are a lot of changes taking place in the brain and nervous system. Whether we are awake and alert or in a deep sleep, the nerve cells in our brains, called neurons, are producing electrical activity. When these neurons fire, they result in wave patterns—beta, alpha, theta, delta and gamma—which use different frequencies to regulate activities. In our conscious state, we are mostly exhibiting beta wave patterns. These waves also come into play during times of frustration, fear and aggression…from thinking too much. When we enter a more relaxed state, such as in meditation, our brains emit alpha waves, while gamma waves help increase mental focus and clarity.
During exercise and meditation you produce alpha and gamma waves and this increase in alpha waves over time, creates changes in the autonomic nervous system and prefrontal cortex, producing lasting changes in mood and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Gamma waves have also been shown to improve the ability to focus and maintain mental clarity. This is why it is so important to exercise on a daily basis, because when we get caught up in the "thinking" aspects, we get stressed out and become unbalanced in our emotional being.
Movement meditation is about showing up completely and being fully present to experience life as it is happening before your eyes. This may seem very simple, but if your mind is untrained, developing this kind of presence can be very difficult in the beginning, because our minds are accustomed to bounce from this to that all day long…thinking, solving worrying. So, it's important that we learn to quiet our minds and experience more peace and stillness through meditation. Developing this kind of awareness will take time and patience, but it is possible. Here are some tips to experiencing movement meditation.
Find activities that you enjoy
Finding an exercise activity that you enjoy can initially help to experience "being in the zone" and calm the mind. I like to use the time I spend working out as an opportunity to deepen my awareness and quiet my mind. Whether I’m practicing yoga, hula hooping or lifting weights, I use this as an opportunity to experience moving meditation. Once you start to experience the joys of movement meditation, you can apply the same practice to anything you are doing, like washing the dishes or taking a walk with your dogs.
Feel and Notice the Sensations
Directing your awareness to your physical body is an amazingly powerful technique to bring you into the present moment. As you move, become aware of your body and your surroundings as much as you can. Really feel your feet as they step, move around and push off. Feel the air in your lungs and the sweat on your skin. Be aware of any scents, sights and sounds. Feel the space around you as you move. Tune into your bodily sensations and become fully present in your body.
Another way of entering a meditative state of awareness is through following the breath. If your mind starts to wander, simply direct it back to the breath. Be aware of breathing and don't hold your breath, but rather get into a rhythm with your breath and take deep cleansing breaths every so often so you can replenish fresh oxygen into your body and muscles.
Despite all the stress that we may be facing, we can use our exercise time as our devoted movement meditation practice, to calm and relax the mind and then to feel gratitude for the gift of movement and dance, being able to walk, run, hear, see, feel to be able to express love and creative movement. What a joy!