Mindfulness is a meditation practice that helps you focus on the present moment and integrate awareness into your everyday life. One of the underlying goals is to shift your focus from unproductive thoughts. It’s considered a great way to decrease stress, plus it’s shown to increase your exercise performance too.
Neurobiological studies suggest mindfulness practices can affect the plasticity of brain structure and functioning. When this happens, the main neurocognitive mechanisms affected include emotional regulation, self-awareness, and attention control. Research indicates mindfulness meditation encourages our minds to operate less reactively, helping us function more seamlessly when emotions are activated. Interestingly, studies show those who partake in this type of meditation have greater compassion – for others and themselves.
Kylie Gates, Les Mills Creative Director, first discovered mindful meditation through teaching BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW® classes, where there’s a short 8-10 minute period of relaxation and meditation at the end. She now tries to meditate every day.
“I love the after-effects, I get a real feeling of clarity and focus.” Some days Kylie follows a Les Mills Mindfulness session, others she does a more lengthy meditation practice, and sometimes she just focuses her mind for a few minutes at her desk. “It's so easy to get comfortable, contact your breath, and focus your mind's attention on the breath.
She says that if she has a lot on her mind she can find it hard to drift off to sleep. ”I start to meditate and before I know it I’m asleep.” Kylie loves how the practice helps release any emotional stress. “It’s my time to check in with myself, to really check in with my heart space. I allow all the emotions to rise up so that they don’t manifest in my body.”
Kylie isn’t the only fan. “I struggle to switch off my mind, it’s always going,” says LES MILLS On Demand subscriber, Bryan Harte. “Les Mills Mindfulness started working for me from the first time I tried it. It’s soothing and I feel like I am actually listening to my body.”
Fellow subscriber, Esme Crutchley agrees, “I love it. I try to do it at least every other day, sometimes every day. It’s so soothing and comforting.”
ADOPTING MINDFULNESS IN TIMES OF STRESS
When COVID-19 spread anxiety across the globe, millions of people turned to at-home exercise – and not just for physical fitness. The LES MILLS™ On Demand home streaming service saw a 900 percent jump in subscribers and 76 percent of users said stress relief was a key motivator, while 72 percent cited the desire to boost their mental health.
There is no doubt that doing physical workouts was becoming an increasingly popular way send stress packing. But at the same time, many were also taking a more serene approach to stress release – streaming meditations, mindfulness sessions and yoga classes into their lounge or bedroom.
Sam B from the UK was one of them. "I am an NHS employee working my ass off in this stressful time of COVID-19 pandemic," she says. "At work, all we discuss is COVID-19, at home, I discuss with my children the importance of handwashing, with my husband I discuss the impact of COVID-19 on his job and our financial circumstances. Thank god for Les Mills Mindfulness. It is my time to switch off and empty my brain for a short time.”
These mindfulness sessions are part of the new LES MILLS WELLNESS series featuring short guided meditation and mindfulness sessions, breathwork and yoga practices. They are designed to be simple in essence and scientific in nature, which makes them a great option for anyone
If you’re new to mindfulness, follow Kylie’s advice. “Take small steps at the beginning – and remember anything is better than nothing.” With time and practice, you will begin to slow the steady stream of thoughts that cause much of our stress and anxiety, and drop into the experience of being; a state characterized by stillness, spaciousness, and greater clarity.
Read more about the amazing link between mindfulness and physical activity and discover all you need to know about how to combat stress and anxiety with exercise.