What Is Movement Meditation?

  • Written By:Jessie Quinn
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As mental health practices continue to dominate conversations and practices in the wellness industry, meditation reigns as one of the best ways to reduce stress and manage symptoms of anxiety. But, meditating doesn’t necessarily mean sitting still for long periods of time — it can also mean moving your body. Also referred to as movement meditation, this type of meditation calls on both ancient and modern practices for maximum well-being benefits.

“When people say movement meditation, they generally mean one of two things,” notes Dr. Jenelle Kim, DACM, L.Ac. and author of Myung Sung: The Korean Art of Living Meditation, adding that the first is meditating with a movement practice. “This is a centuries-old tradition that has existed across many cultures and has been especially meaningful in Asia,” she explains. “Movement meditations include practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gona,” she adds. In addition to these ancient movement meditations, there are also practices referred to as living meditations. “This is when you meditate while doing other tasks, including your everyday chores such as folding laundry or walking the dog,” says Kim, adding that this type of movement meditation is also considered an ancient practice. “Traditionally, meditation was not only thought of as a silent and still activity, but something that could be achieved through calligraphy, dancing, and other tasks that required you to focus your mind and connect with your body,” says Kim.

Movement meditation has been known for centuries to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to balance the mind, body, and spirit.

- Dr. Jenelle Kim

The Benefits of Movement Meditation

If sitting still to meditate is a challenge, movement meditation might be more your speed — and you can still reap the benefits of meditation. “Movement meditation has been known for centuries to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to balance the mind, body, and spirit,” Kim explains. As such, movement meditation can help relieve stress, feelings of anxiety, and even mental fog. “Moving meditation is also known to help strengthen the systems of the body, such as your digestive system, immune system, and circulatory system,” Kim notes.

The combination of meditation (focus) with movement can “enhance the effectiveness of your meditation,” Kim explains. To get the most benefit from this practice, Kim recommends a combination of movement and still meditation. “If you only have 20 minutes to meditate, you should spend eight minutes moving before sitting down and focusing your mind for the remaining 12,” she explains.

How to Practice Movement Meditation

If you find meditation on your own to be a challenge, there are many great resources — such as the Headspace app — with guided meditations for both still meditations as well as movement meditations for running and walking. Or, if you want to try something more traditional, you could incorporate Qi Gong and Tai Chi practices into your meditation by way of a guided YouTube video for a few minutes per day. “By just repeating a few, simple movements for a couple of minutes, you can start to feel the benefits of the moving meditation,” says Kim.

In addition to meditating with ancient and modern movement rituals, you can turn your chores or daily tasks around the house into a meditation session. Kim recommends choosing a chore that you do without feeling connected and, instead of allowing your mind to wander, try digging in a little deeper and focusing more on the task at hand. “Notice all of your senses and observe all the little details you might otherwise not pay attention to,” she explains. “Really connect with the task you’re doing and what it feels like to exist in that moment — allow the movement of your body to fuel your meditation.”

Art is another great way to practice movement meditation. Whether you pick up a crochet project or brush paint on canvas, the repetitiveness of an art project — and the concentration it takes — can help you sink into a meditative state without realizing it.

The great thing about movement meditation is that it helps us build resilience in our day-to-day lives. As we practice focusing and connecting to our bodies in chores, creativity, fitness, or through the ancient Tai Chi and Qi Gong rituals, we allow more space for our mind-body connection to flourish. According to Kim, with regular practice, you might begin to notice how you approach other situations — yes, even stressful ones — with the same sense of calmness and connectivity with yourself and the situation around you.

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