Summary: Join host Pamela Stokes, creator of Mindful Motion and Somatic Release. Find ease and comfort in your body and mind as you experience two simple discreet motions you can use in your everyday life to immediately reduce stress and improve digestion. You’ll learn some of the science behind these motions as well as what mindfulness through movement is, its numerous benefits, and how we can change our brain to change our mind and effortlessly develop resilience.
- What is Mindfulness? [0:43] Includes the benefits of mindfulness through movement.
- “…we’ve also discovered very recently—and this was just published very recently—that these microglial cells will also kill neurons.” [4:41]
- Motion – TONGUE [10:07]
- Sounding – SIGH OF RELIEF [15:17]
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Hello, friends! Pamela here. Thanks for joining me. I’d like to start today with the question: What is mindfulness? There have been some definitions of mindfulness, but the one that I like includes three parts. The first part is the awareness, so that’s your consciousness. The second part is the now. And the third part are these filters that we have built into us in our subconscious mind. And if we can practice being aware in the now and then recognize that we have these filters and just let them pass, we can be practicing our mindfulness. I have added into my program, Mindful Motion, movement, because it’s been shown that having mindfulness with movement is more effective than mindfulness alone. So we’ll be learning some of these motions that will help to allow you to have mindfulness along with the motions. And, because you’re using your body, some of these filters—the subconscious programs that are there—will be released. It’s got that benefit.
So I wanted to talk about each of these pieces. Awareness, the consciousness. We have seen that when you have a thought, it can make you feel a certain way. And so being aware and being conscious, you can realize that things are being changed and things are being affected by that. It’s our natural ability, our brain’s natural ability is to be aware, so we’re just sort of playing on that. And then being in the now is important, because when we’re in the now we’re not stuck in the past and thinking about regrets or resentments. We’re also not worrying about the future. There may be some craving or some suffering that goes along with that, so by being in the now we can stay out of the past and out of the future and can be in this moment, which is really all we can count on. We don’t know what’s coming in the future! And another reason why I included movement is because in biology—that’s the field that I’ve been trained in—that movement is actually one of the definitions of life. So you if you are talking about something, “is it alive? Does it move? Does it have movement? That by definition would be. “Yes it’s alive.” So I think it’s very important, vitally important, that we have movement when we are practicing our mindfulness.
And I wanted to talk about some of the benefits of mindfulness with movement, so that you can understand that it is really something that can really help you. And when we learn these motions. when I teach you these things, you can practice them on your own, and you’ll feel these benefits. So the first one is that it reduces stress, and stress, of course we know, it causes all kinds of damage in our body. But one of the things that I think is very interesting that I’ve learned recently is a part of the brain we have these little tiny cells called microglial cells. It was understood that these cells were helpful to our brain cells, to our neurons, by providing them with support and keeping them alive. And so that’s a great function, but we’ve also discovered very recently—and this is just published very recently—that these microglial cells will also kill neurons. And what makes them go from being these very helpful cells to being these killer cells is stress. So when there is a stress response, the microglial cells will actually go and find those neurons that are creating that pathway, that are part of that pathway, and kill them and eat them up. So we don’t want stress. We really don’t want stress, because we’re finding that it is definitely detrimental to our brain cells. (For more information, visit here.)
So I’m going to look at my list here, and get some more things that are benefits of mindfulness with movement. It also reduces rumination. Rumination comes from the word ruminant, which in biology is a term for animals that have several stomach chambers. They will eat their food, digest it a little bit, and then bring it back up again, and digest it again, and put it into the next chamber, and bring it back up again. And rumination is what we do with our thoughts. And so we have them kind of going around and around and around and nothing gets solved. So this mindfulness with movement can reduce rumination. Another thing that it does is it is helpful for improving working memory, which is our short-term memory. And that’s a really good thing, if you want to remember where your keys are or you want to remember where your car is, you need that short-term memory. It also increases cognitive flexibility, which is a great thing to have. It decreases numbness and dissociation. So one of the reasons why I developed the program was because I know that it’s difficult for some people to sit quietly and meditate, although we know the benefits of meditation. Because they are numbed out in their body, they dissociate when they’re meditating. So it’s really not aware and it’s really not present, so there’s really not a lot of benefits there. So when you’re doing this mindful movement, the numbness decreases and the dissociation decreases. These are two of the symptoms of depression, so we could say overall it reduces depression, too. And it also reduces social anxiety, which is a very helpful thing because we’re a social species, so it’s important for us to be able to interact with other human beings. And that’s a very good thing to do: decrease social anxiety. It enhances emotion regulation. If we have a situation where we have been stimulated by something that’s causing us a problem (and I’m going to use the keys again—losing our keys), one of the responses might be, “Oh, darn it! I lost my keys. I better retrace my steps.” But another reaction might be freaking out and crying, screaming, yelling at other people. That kind of stuff. The ability to regulate what comes out emotionally is going to be improved by practicing mindfulness with movement. It enhances our ability to focus, and when we have a focused brain, we have a happy brain. It aids in decision making. It increases information-processing speed. It boosts immune system function, which is a wonderful thing to have. It reduces addiction and cravings. When we talk about the brain chemistry on another episode, I will get more into that addiction and cravings piece. It enhances relationship satisfaction, and I think that is tying in with the social anxiety. It improves sleep. Sleep is highly necessary. We certainly don’t get enough of it in this time in our history. And it may not even be good sleep. You might wake up in the morning and not even feel refreshed, so having the benefit of a mindfulness practice can really improve your sleep. It decreases pain and muscle tension, and I think that’s one of the big ones for me. With fibromyalgia there’s a lot of pain and tension, and I found that these movements were ideal for reducing those symptoms. It improves flexibility, which is great because as we age, we don’t want to end up hunched over and not being able to move easily. So that’s a really important thing too. And then it also improves our digestion. And that brings me to what I wanted to introduce today for the motion.
The motion that we’re doing today comes from my program, Mindful Motion Essentials. It’s the first one. It’s called TONGUE. And the reason why I include that is because the tongue is the first part of the digestive tract. The digestive tract is a long tube. It’s about 30 feet long. It starts at your mouth; goes down your throat; your stomach; your small intestine; your large intestine; and the anal sphincter is the end of it. So this big long tube is all connected. So if we can have a an awareness of our tongue, an awareness of the softness of our tongue, the entire digestive tract is affected positively. So the way that this works is very simple, and you can do this anywhere and anytime. So I’d like you to join in with me as I do, as we do together, the TONGUE. And what we’re going to be doing very simply is first noticing. Before we do the motion, just noticing anything you might notice about your digestive system. Perhaps any tightnesses or any kind of sensations. Or there may not be any kind of awareness, and that’s fine too. So just noticing. There’s no agenda. Just taking an inventory/a snapshot. (Pause to notice any sensations.) And then you’re going to press the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Gently press it up, and then slowly release it on account of maybe 5 seconds. Slowly let your tongue drop down and become soft, and allow your jaw to be soft. And then notice how you feel. (Pause to notice) And you may notice in your digestive system, your digestive tract, that there’s some softening, maybe some easing up. That’s what we’re after. And let’s try that again. So taking the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth and pressing up gently and then slowly release. Let it drop down. And you can close your eyes if it helps become aware of what sensations are happening there. And then just notice how you feel. (Pause to notice) So that’s TONGUE. And we’re going to soften the digestive tract, so I wanted to explain a little bit about why this is important. Our body is designed, our digestive system is designed to have a process called peristalsis, where the food moves down the tubes. The muscles kind of contract and release along the way to push the food down, and then it arrives at a sphincter which is a little valve or an opening. And the opening will open when the food is there, and then allow the food through, and then close up so that the food can go into the next part of the tract. If those sphincters are working correctly, nothing goes back up the other way, so we don’t have heartburn and burping and things like that. So when we have a regulated digestive tract by doing a simple motion as TONGUE, we can make all those sphincters work the way that they’re supposed to and the peristalsis moves smoothly and gets everything moving down the tract. Because we don’t want anything coming back up. And so if you have a sluggish digestive system, if you have flatulence or burping, heartburn, anything like that, this activity can really help with that. And what’s really cool about our body is the gut and all of our internal organs are innervated, which means that there are nerves that are going up to the brain. And about 80% of the information travels from the body to the brain, so basically the brain is kind of listening for cues from the body. “Is everything OK in there?” And if the body is in a nice calm state, and it’s easy, and things are moving along the way they’re supposed to, now our nervous system says, “Oh, everything’s OK.” And we can go into optimal wellness. So by having our digestive tract calm; and peristalsis moving things down; and the sphincters opening and closing when they’re supposed to, send signals of wellness to our nervous system and says everything’s OK. You’re safe. You can digest your food, and it’s all good!
And another thing I’d like to do today is to bring another motion from Mindful Motion that is a sounding one. I call it the SIGH OF RELIEF and it’s very simple. And, again, you can do this pretty much anywhere. You don’t have to be super noisy, but it does involve making some sound. So what you’re going to be doing, and you can join in—please join in—is you’re going to be taking a small inhale through the nose. So let’s try this together: small inhale through the nose and then a larger one, and then mmmmmm (long slow sigh with the lips closed). And when you do the sighing part, I want you to imagine the breath going down to the lower part of your body and perhaps even down through your legs and out your feet. So let’s try that again. We’ll take a small inhale and then a larger one and then mmmmmmm (long slow sigh with the lips closed) on the exhale. And then notice how you feel. (Pause to notice.) Pretty nice! It’s very settling, very calming. And there’s another aspect of this which I think is important to understand is that when we hear the sound of our own voice in pleasant tones, like this sigh of relief, that again sends a message back up to the brain and the nervous system that says everything’s OK, you’re safe.
So that is all I have for you today. I hope that you will practice these daily and feel the benefits. Enjoy the pleasant sensations. And as you’re doing this, realizing that this is a mindfulness practice, and so you’re practicing mindfulness. This is a kind of a meditation. I’m so glad you joined me today. I look forward to sharing more with you. This has been Move Into Resilience, and you can find more information at Move Into Resilience.com. I’m Pamela Stokes. Thanks for joining me. Take it easy!