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The study of physical 'mindfulness'

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Yoga, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method, dance and voice lessons… all of these practices are beneficial for the improvement of bodily awareness, proper breathing, flexibility and movement. Personally, I like to refer to all of these practices as ‘physical mindfulness’ practices. When done correctly, all of these activities require an immense amount of focus; they require the ability to change what our body is doing habitually; and they all require patience. Mindful repetition, patiently practiced daily, will allow the brain to re-wire itself, thus allowing for more flexibility, both mentality and physically.

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All of the practices mentioned above also require for the student to become more self-aware of his or her own body. In meditation, we become more aware of our surroundings and of the present moment. Similarly, when practicing physical mindfulness, we must be in the present moment to really be aware of how our body is working and reacting at the very moment that we are trying something new. This seems obvious, but it really is amazing how much the human brain will wander off track, when it is not trained to be mindful. Without the intense focus on the present moment, similar to that of meditation, how would an opera singer be able to memorize and sing properly the florid musical passages such as are found in the music of Handel or Mozart? How would the ballet dancer be able to remember the steps of a footwork sequence in a modern ballet show? It is a focus without the distraction of nuisances from earlier in the day. It is a complete devotion to what one is engaged in at the present moment.
The study of ‘mindfulness’ has recently taken the world by storm. Everyone seems to be talking about the benefits of mindfulness for the brain. Yet, not only can one practice mindfulness through silent meditation, a wonderful exercise that helps the brain maintain its elasticity, but one can also practice mindfulness in a very physical sense, to improve everything from our posture and our way of movement, to our vocal production. When the brain is ready and open for change and new ideas; when the brain is also ready to be challenged by a lack of habitual movement, then we are open to become physically mindful of our own bodies. We can learn to breathe properly, to walk properly, and to carry our bodies properly.

Check out the slideshow for some striking photos of people practicing physical mindfulness, and stay tuned for more articles detailing some of the above-mentioned practices!

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