When you think of mind-body connections and fitness, it’s likely that you first think of yoga, which has cornered the market on the mind-body experience for years. However, there are plenty of other ways to find a deeper connection within yourself without doing downward facing dog. Not that there’s anything wrong with getting in your daily sun salutations, but if yoga doesn’t do it for you, I’ve got some tips on how to sweat, grunt, and breathe your way into a deeper connection to your body — no matter your workout.
3 Ways to Build a Mind-Body Connection While Working Out (Without Yoga!)
1. Bring on your focus. Working out can have a meditative quality because it’s a time to be focused on one thing. You may be looking to get fit or get strong by running faster or lifting a heavier weight. Achieving these goals requires a lot of concentration. It’s likely that during your workout (maybe not right away, but the same could be said for the first few minutes of yoga, right?) your mind will lose focus on the everyday. Instead of dwelling on worries, doubts, and anxiety, you become one with your routine, engaging in some awe-inspiring feat of strength or conditioning. For me, getting in my zone while exercising has a hugely therapeutic quality, and once I’m done with my workout, I feel mentally lighter.
2. Take deep breaths. One of the biggest components of yoga is breathing exercises. But, let me tell you, breathing is a huge part of any workout. When you breathe while exercising, you’re allowing your muscles to receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting, says Livestrong. You can train yourself to breathe more fully and have that deeper mind-body connection using several techniques outside of the practice of yoga.
Taking deliberate and full breaths can help you do more when you’re working out, helping you gain ability and performance, says Dragon Door (this article also includes some breathing training techniques you may want to try). Stack Fitness outlines the critical role of breath in kettlebell swings: “The efficiency of the Kettlebell Swing relies heavily on a proper breathing pattern. Breathing correctly increases speed and force production throughout the movement.” I’d argue that the more strength you feel during your workout, the more you’ll connect to your body and mind.
3. Build your body awareness. Intentional workouts will further the mind-body connection. Your focus on proper technique will give you the opportunity to focus on your body’s abilities. Your mind will engage with what it takes to get your body standing taller, getting stronger, and meeting your goals. Embracing fitness requires you to engage with your body and to hurdle mental and physical barriers. You can’t increase your strength or decrease your Kettlebell Snatch Test time without the mental and physical commitment to do more. As you develop your fitness plans and goals, your body and mind will be crucial to your success. Knowing what your body can (and can’t) do and how you can make it do more will push you to a deeper level, instilling self-recognition of the power within.
When you connect with your body during any workout, you will respect and appreciate your whole self. At Performance Fitness, we like to summarize our mission statement as follows: Committing to fitness means that you’ll live a better life as a better you. To me, that’s what the mind-body connection is all about, and you don’t need to be one with your yoga mat to achieve it.