Motion is lotion. If there ever were an evidence-based miracle pill for health, it would be movement done mindfully.
The body softens. Stability, balance, and coordination improve. The joints are lubricated, while blood and lymph get moving. The mood lightens, and it gets easier to relax.
And that’s just a tiny selection of the wide-ranging effects.
For most people with chronic pain, exercise is the most important medicine. All movement nourishes the nervous system and the brain, and with a focus on mindfulness, they are strengthened even more.
Mindful movement in a nutshell
Mindful movement is all movement that you do while being aware of your movements. The great thing is that you can practice this while doing all kinds of movements! But it is often easier if the movements are relatively simple, and you do not have to think much along the way.
Here are some guidelines for mindful movement:
- Practice focusing only on what you do. Avoid multitasking
- Make each movement unique. And do it your way.
- Try to be attentive to what you do when you do it. Do not hurry to the next action.
- Avoid mechanical movements. Try to involve more of the body in each movement.
- Use your breath as an anchor. However, leave it if it becomes distracting.
- Be kind to yourself. You do the best you can, and that’s good enough.
- A little movement done regularly is better than a lot of movement done rarely.
Find your movement
In principle, all forms of movement can be used for mindfulness training.
What kind of movement practice is best for you? You may have to do some trial and error along the way to find the answer. Maybe you will change your mind after a while too.
To help you explore different ways to practice mindful movement, here is a collection of free resources. I have personal experience over many years with almost all of them, and can highly recommend them all!
🔉 – audio only
Feldenkrais and Somatics
If I were to choose one recommendation from all the different forms of mindful movement, it would be the Feldenkrais method and its offshoot Somatics. Its focus on attention and slow, minimal movement, while safely supported by lying down, is very helpful when working with chronic pain.
The video below is a great routine that moves the whole body in half an hour. I often recommend parts of it to my patients for their homework. So good!
Many forms of yoga are excellent for mindful movement. There are many routines for chronic pain on youtube. When starting, try to look for something calm, slow, and not too demanding.
The example below is very easygoing and with a lot of pauses for relaxation.
Dance has many therapeutic effects, including pain relief in fibromyalgia.
Tip: A lot can be done with very small movements!
Rosen Method Movements
These gentle and lively movements come from the physiotherapist Marion Rosen, who created the soft bodywork modality called the Rosen Method. You can see her sitting in the background in this Master Class.
This is a simple and effective method that helps the nervous system to recover from chronic pain by reducing catastrophizing in the painful area.
These calm movements are ideal for pain relief. There are many styles, and this version from the meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hahn is particularly soothing.
This is essentially a martial art. A main part of the practice is performed mindfully at a slow pace. And eventually, lightning-fast.
The example here is Wudang Practical Taichichuan, of which I also am an instructor. This is the short form in two versions, which takes approximately 5 minutes to do. The square form trains the basic movements in the right sequence and the round form trains all the movements in a continuous flow.
Featured photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash