Calming the mind through movement may seem like a contradiction at first. However, anxiety is often a symptom of a freeze response in response to difficult situations or daily stress. Movement is a great antidote to that freeze state. It gets us unstuck.
Holding stress in the body
The experience of trauma or significant stress is part of a human experience. As a result, we often operate in “survival mode”. This results in chronic muscle tension and fatigue. Mindfulness seems like a perfect solution to stress and anxiety. It’s accessible. It improves emotional regulation, concentration, and sleep. It helps us develop more kindness and compassion, for others and ourselves. But for many the idea of sitting still with their thoughts actually creates anxiety. This is common for people with trauma or chronic pain. They often numb, distract, or ignore distressing sensations in order to make it through the day. Mindfulness requires the opposite of such disassociation.
Stress gets held in our bodies. This means that we carry the tension around with us and it affects us on a body-mind level. Movement is a great way to release that tension and get back to a relaxed state. Repetitive movement can bring us into the state of mindfulness. This gives our body a chance to recalibrate and switch on our natural healing and renewal processes.
Moving the body calms the mind
In other words, rhythmic movement can be therapeutic and healing. It helps integrate body and mind. In addition, it resets the nervous system. Moreover, it rewires the brain for healing and wholeness. Therefore, it’s not only good for your physical body but your mental health too.
Meditative movement is grounding. Feeling grounded is the exact opposite to feeling anxious. Anxiety is being stuck in our internal world of thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, repetitive movement helps us get out of our head and reconnect with our body. That is to say grounding and centering connect us back to the earth and to ourselves. Grounding reduces inflammation and emotional stress. It elevates our mood, and improves our immune responses. It brings us back to feeling centered and secure. And that’s what we need in times of struggle and overwhelm.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong integrate mind and body through rhythmic movement. So does therapeutic dance and movement. Whichever practice you choose, the movement and sensations of your body will bring your awareness to the present moment, calming the mind. In other words, noticing the sensations of touching the ground. Being aware of the hands and feet. The movement of the arms shifting in motion. Following the breath as you inhale and exhale deeply and air travels in and out of your lungs. In this way, the rhythmic flow of your movements will relax your mind. Using your senses to anchor yourself in the present moment. That is to say being spiritually quiet and listening with the whole body and mind. This is how the body talks to the mind -with the language of sensation.