Using Mindful Movement as a Form of Meditation Practice with the Body
In Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction practices Hatha Yoga has been used as part of the recovery process from both psychological and physical suffering. In my own clinical use of mindful movement with children, youth and adults, I found that basic Qi Gong/Che Kung, Walking Meditation, and Trauma-Informed Yoga proved to be very helpful in improving participants’ mood and personal motivation. So why/how does repeated, formal sequences of body movement help people? Like general regular exercise, these mindful movement routines tend to lubricate the body (tendons, joints, etc.), improve strength (muscles), enhance resiliency (sticking with it for reinforcement), perhaps modify neurotransmitters, change breathing rate and depth, produce cognitive distraction from negative thoughts and emotions, lead to bodily stimulation and later relaxation, as well as improve attention, mindfulness, and concentration. There are many ways regular body movement can help us. The Buddha’s own advice was to move the body to improve attitude and mood: sit, lay down, walk, and stand up the next time you experience unhelpful emotions to see what happens. Today many examples of these movement meditation forms are available – often free online, through Google, in social media, and via Apps.
One of the most interesting explanations about why yoga (body meditation) is so helpful to people has been presented by the 14th Dalai Lama ( Tenzin Gyatso along with Khonton Peljor Lhundrub and Jose Ignacio Cabezon) in the book, Meditation on the Nature of Mind. The Dalai Lama suggest that there are many ways to attain enlightenment: four ways of yoga, five paths, and ten stages of the bodhisattva. Although he supports all means for attaining enlightenment, The Dalai Lama makes a special effort to support the “yoga of single-pointed concentration.” Apparently this form of yoga is one of the most personally “experiential” in its application. In the yoga of single-pointed concentration the self arises in the body (asana); there is complete awareness in the present moment of the body (holding its suffering or joy) but without distraction and cognitive elaborations (thinking). With the help of a trusted yoga teacher’s guidance, voice and sometimes corrective touch, there arises a strong calm abiding with self-compassion for what the object of meditative yoga is: the body as the personal home of emotional suffering. With this state of being comes equipoise and the “clear light” of experiencing your bodily experience, in the now. There is a self-arising realization in the present moment of the” you” experiencing the body as it passes through life’s joy, suffering and neutrality.
For more information refer to The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Khonton Peljor Lhundrup, and Jose Ignacio Cabezon (2011). Meditation on the Nature of Mind. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 120-126.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont
Author of Mindful Happiness
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