Practicing yoga offers a ton of benefits for the mind, body, and spirit! But like anything else, it’s not for everyone. If you’ve tried yoga and didn’t enjoy it, or simply don’t find the idea of it appealing, here are 5 other mind/body exercises you might want to consider.
1. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a soft, gentle martial arts practice of Chinese origin that emphasizes balance, concentration, and fluid movements. Although it’s technically a martial art, it’s non-contact, so your focus will instead be on your own slow, repeated, and meditative movements.
Harvard Medical School has reported that Tai Chi helps to build strength, flexibility, and balance, and may benefit medical conditions including arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, sleep problems, stress and anxiety, and improve quality of life for cancer patients.
Like Tai Chi, Qigong is a Chinese martial art that focuses on energy, or ‘Qi.’ Qigong is different from Tai Chi in the sense that it’s even gentler, the movements are simpler, and it is more adaptive in the sense that literally anyone who can take deep breaths can practice Qi Gong in some form.
So if other forms of exercise are difficult or not an option for you, or if your primary focus is stress reduction and relaxation, Qi Gong may be a perfect fit!
Although not always thought of as a ‘mind-body’ exercise, Pilates’ emphasis on linking the breath with movement serves to enhance the mind-body connection and reduce stress and tension. When practiced regularly, Pilates also increases flexibility, improves core strength, posture and other structural problems, and may reduce lower-back pain.
Pilates routines, like yoga, can range from very gentle to higher intensity, with some moderate and advanced Pilates classes providing cardio benefits along with strength and flexibility. Pilates is a great choice for those who want to sculpt a more toned, flexible, functional, and all around healthier body.
Dancing can be a wonderful way to express yourself and your feelings through bodily movements. Dance is so popular that your choices are pretty much endless, so you’ll have plenty of varieties to try until you find a class or teacher that works for you.
Although different types of dance will provide different benefits, what all dance has in common is the potential to integrate the body, mind, and spirit, and leave you feeling energized and transformed!
5. Martial Arts
Besides Tai Chi and Qi Gong, there are plenty of more ‘combat’ focused martial arts that also require intense concentration and integration of the body and mind. These are especially beneficial for improving energy, self-esteem, and discipline, not to mention teaching you how to protect yourself!
Popular forms include Kung Fu, Karate, Capoeira, Judo, and even boxing. Most of these are highly physical, and provide a full body workout. For those who don’t like the combat nature of martial arts, ‘non-contact’ training is available for some forms. You can inquire at your local martial arts studio or YMCA for more information on classes and getting started!
If none of these look tempting, remember: you don’t actually have to perform any of these to get the benefits of a mind/body exercise. Any exercise performed with mindfulness and awareness can fall into this category.
So the next time you go jogging or biking, instead of focusing on how tired you are or how fast you can go, focus on your breath, the sensations in your body, and clearing your mind. That’s all there is to it!
-The Alternative Daily