Movement for the uncoordinated, stiff, wobbly and stressed

Is that you?

Let’s face it. It’s 2021 and we are all likely to feel more stressed and be holding tension in the body. Body and mind aren’t separate. The body mirrors what’s happening in the mind and vice versa. Calm mind – calm body. Tense body – tense mind.

There is currently a welcome and more public discussion on mental health. This was highlighted to me today. I’m currently in quarantine after an unfortunate visit to a shopping centre and today I received a govt text today telling me about mental health care services. I’m grateful for the reminder.

Movement can provide a valuable avenue to helping wellbeing and mental health. Being involved in a research project in 2014 at the Repatriation Hospital teaching yoga to Veterans with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) was a life changing experience for me and altered the way I saw the potential of movement to change lives.

Here is a brief summary of the results. You can read the article published in the Journal of Psychiatry here.

“Yoga was found to produce significant benefits across a wide range of variables. Almost all subjects achieved a clinically significant response to the intervention, with over half actually decreasing PTSD symptom scores to a level below the diagnostic cut-off. There was a significant decrease in the mean scores across all three symptom domains of the PCL checklist (revealing decreased scores for re-experiencing phenomena, avoidance and hyperarousal). Symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress all decreased significantly, but sleep quality and overall quality of life were found to have significantly improved.”  

What struck me was that the mindful movement yoga that I taught, provided such positive outcomes for the mental health and wellbeing of this courageous group of men and women even though they had many years of therapy. If it can be helpful for this population group how valuable can it be for others such as those with persistent pain, recovering from traumatic events, such as my friends who experienced the Australian 2019 bushfires, or for first responders or health care staff?  This is something that I’ve explored through my own practice and in teaching over the years.

Personally I’ve noticed that if I go for periods of time without a regular practice of mindful movement I start getting more stressed, less able to focus and I am more restless at night. It’s quite uncanny but it’s happened often enough that I see it as a pattern. In the break between the term classes when I’m doing less yoga practice  I’m less aware of my body, overstrain, fall or develop back pain. Then I remember to get back on the mat, let go of the annoyance that I’d paused and start again. I discover that I’m REALLY stiff. As I connect to my body, notice the tightness and sore places, gently stretch with awareness of my breathing, my mind tends to refocus and calm.  I regain confidence in my body and stop saying to myself “well you are getting older!”

So what is going on? How can mindful movement boost wellbeing and mental health?

Mindful movement is the secular practice of bringing awareness to the inner landscape of sensations as we breathe, rest and move. When we connect to the body with kindness and a non-judgmental attitude, we open ourselves to new ways of responding that foster greater choice, wellbeing and creativity. Yoga is a philosophical approach to living that incorporates mindful movement as one element of a broader framework of intentions. Research shows that yoga regulates the nervous system, stimulates cellular repair and increases areas of the brain responsible for body awareness, emotional and attentional regulation. 

Therefore mindful movement can be for all of you – body and mind.

if you’re feeling uncoordinated, really stiff, wobbly on your feet, recovering from injury or concerned about your ability to do the tasks you need and want to do mindful movement may offer you a kind way to feel more confident in what your body can do.

If you’re feeling stressed, mindful movement can help you focus and calm a busy mind and tune into the tension and protective holding in the body.

Mindful movement, adapted to your needs, is an important component of all the trainings and treatments that we provide.