Switching to a slower, more gentle gear in my fitness regime is new to me. I was always a jogger and reached levels of calm (runner’s high) through my running routines. In my 30s and 40s, I ran for exercise – from 3-4 miles a few times a week to 10Ks, half-marathons and, eventually full marathons. Like many who run, I ended up with too many injuries and eventually had to give it up.
Then came my 50s when I was diagnosed with a health challenge that forced me into seeking gentler forms of exercise. I tried many: Pilates, tai chi, yoga, strength training, group cycling, and low-impact classes. More injuries sidelined me, but I kept searching.
This led me to restorative yoga, mindfulness and meditation. I have always wanted to make yoga part of my fitness regimen, but I found my lack of flexibility frustrating. I attended many yoga classes with increased anxiety and embarrassment. How hard could downward dog be? I eventually discovered restorative yoga – which uses a chair as part of your practice – and with that came mindfulness meditation.
In an article published by Huffington Post, Mindfulness Meditation Benefits, A Perspectives on Psychological Science study described mindfulness as “the nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.”
The article also cites a number of reasons why you might want to consider incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your daily life. Here are a few of them and my experiences:
- It lowers stress — literally. Learning how to be retired was stressing me out. Did I have enough to keep me busy each day? What would happen to me as I grew into this new life? After several weeks of mindfulness meditation, I didn’t dwell on those dead-end topics. I was able to relax more.
- It could help people with arthritis better handle stress. Many women in my meditation class suffer from arthritis and other significant ailments. Despite their daily discomfort, the meditative experience quiets their mind enough to make the pain more tolerable.
- It could help your doctor be better at his/her job. When my neurologist asked me how I was keeping in shape, I reported my activity with restorative yoga and mindfulness meditation. He sat back and asked me to tell him more. “I recommend this to my other patients all the time. May I ask you periodically to speak to them about this?” Glad to help, Doc.
- It could make going through serious illness just a little less stressful. When diagnosed with any life altering illness, looking for ways to bring some quiet and peace to a worried mind is a bonus. Oftentimes, it helps in the healing process, too.
- It supports your weight-loss goals. I have heard this to be true and know that it has helped me as well. This is purely anecdotal, but dealing with hunger seems to have lessened.
- It helps you sleep better. For those fitful nights, it comes in handy to take a step back and go into breath lessons learned as part of the mindfulness practice. Concentrating on that and not on one’s noisy mind can make for a restful sleep.
My yoga and meditation coach, Avril James-Hurt, an experienced exercise physiologist with Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta explains how to begin a mindfulness and meditation practice in this video.
I have already seen health improvements as a result of this practice. Working mindfulness and meditation into my life will always be challenging – and I welcome it for it has truly been the start of a journey that brings well-being and peace.