In many ways, so much of travel is “mindful movement.” You book a flight, you plan how you’ll get from the airport to your hotel, and you map out each day’s worth of walks and activities. But there’s a difference between planning a daily itinerary and practicing mindful movement. Read on to find out why it’s one of my favorite travel trends of the moment.
You might have your suspicions from the name alone, but let’s dive into what mindful movement really means. All you must do is focus on how your body feels through each move you make.
For example, imagine you’re stretching in the morning after waking up in a secluded, non-touristy location. You bend forward and reach for your toes, but you also notice which muscle contracts and when throughout the movement. You can feel yourself stretching deeper with every exhalation, noticing if one leg feels a little sore.
Paying close attention to the way your body feels is all it takes when it comes to practicing mindful movement. But, of course, there are more pieces to the puzzle.
Mindful movement is the perfect way to keep in touch with my needs while I travel. I have the tendency to get lost in what I’m doing and what I’m looking at. And, while that’s an incredible feeling, it often leaves me exhausted and sore from the sheer amount of stuff I do each day.
On top of that, the benefits of mindfulness apply to movement, too. So, not only do I feel as though I’m in better physical shape, but I can clear my mind by looking inward, too. I’ll dig deeper into that topic a bit later, but I will say now that these are the main reasons why I love this new ritual.
I’ll admit, I can’t practice mindful movement constantly, although I could potentially move my way up to that level of mastery in the future. Now, my travel routine is simple:
I start each morning with a simple stretch routine. If you don’t have one of your own already, a quick web search can uncover several options that will work swimmingly. As I go through each step, I’m focusing on the minute of every movement: which muscles are working? Do they feel normal? What effect does my breath have on my movement?
I don’t stay in my hostel or hotel, so I continue practicing mindful movement as I move around and explore. Every half hour or so, I pay close attention to the way my feet and legs feel with each step. My arms might need my attention, too, if I’m carrying a heavy bag that could cause soreness. If my body has started to ache, I come up with a way to rest the body part(s) causing me trouble. Usually, a break for a drink and a snack is enough to make the pain go away.
At night, if I feel my muscles tensing up, I go through an evening stretch or cool-down before bed. Depending on how my body’s feeling, I either go out and enjoy my destination or hop into bed to recharge for the coming day.
Throughout it all, I make a point to pay attention to my movement only. A big pitfall of any mindfulness practice is getting caught up in the hubbub of the world around us. So, I make a point to focus on me and my needs, so I am as in tune with my body as possible.
As I’ve already mentioned, practicing mindful movement has revolutionized the way I feel when I travel. Rather than getting completely wrapped up in my surroundings, I pay attention to my body and give myself what I need, when I need it.
The bigger picture, though, is that mindfulness has so many benefits in general. One big one for me is the fact that it can reduce stress. Even though I love traveling, I have trouble relaxing on days when I have a tight travel schedule, for example. But staying in touch with my innermost thoughts and movements helps me to stave off the once-inevitable onset of stress, so strong because I ran myself to my very thinnest.
Mindfulness can sharpen your memory, too, which I’ve loved on my travels. I have successfully re-navigated myself to a small restaurant I discovered the day prior because my mind was clear and I was, therefore, so attentive. You might also feel more creative and more focused because you attempt to be more mindful.
Whether you’re on the road or in your pajamas in your living room, you can benefit from practicing mindful movement. Start your journey now so that, by the time you’re ready to travel again, you know just how to take your body’s hint. In turn, you’ll know how to take care of yourself — no matter where you are in the world.