Teaching clients to calm their minds during movement is essential to helping them fight stress and achieve their wellness goals. We must not underestimate how much our clients suffer from stress. Sure, it distracts them during training sessions, but it also infects every facet of their daily lives. Fortunately, time-tested yoga techniques for developing mindfulness and flow can help clients focus on their fitness goals and cope with stress outside the gym.
Mindfulness and Going With the Flow
Flow is a unified consciousness connecting spirit, body and mind—the unbroken stream of thoughts, fluid movements and embodied realizations, with a feeling of never-ending connection to self, others and the world around us. You can help clients achieve flow during each personal training session by establishing a clear “intention” for what you plan to accomplish. Clarifying that intention—whether it be to complete each exercise without complaining, to try a new exercise with joy and excitement, or to push a little harder for today’s workout—will help focus a client’s energy during your time together.
Establishing flow fosters mindfulness, a mental state that brings complete attention to what’s happening now.
Four Steps to Fight Stress, Enhance Flow
- Slow movement down and focus on syncing the breath with the movements. Ease clients mindfully into the flow.
- Incorporate pranayama breathing techniques like nadi shodhana (see below).
- Incorporate yoga postures, sequenced together, with a focus on breathing during movement.
- End the session with progressive body relaxation, guided meditation or silent meditation.
Pranayama Breathing Technique: Nadi Shodhana
Try this breathing technique with your clients. It is a form of alternate-nostril breathing that deliberately changes the flow of air from one side to the other, regularly and rhythmically, by pressing the side of one nostril and then the other. Nadi means channel, and refers to an energy pathway through which prana flows; shodhana means cleansing. Hence, nadi shodhana means “cleansing channel.”
Normally, each nostril takes its turn being dominant in the breathing pattern, with the switch occurring periodically throughout the day. The tissue swells in one nostril while becoming less swollen in the other. This documented and predictable rhythmic pattern can be interrupted by emotional disturbances, irregular meal and sleep schedules, and irritation of the nose from pollution and infection. Throughout the day you will notice one nostril is easier to breathe through. Breathing through the right nostril can make you feel more active, alert and oriented toward the external world, while breathing through the left nostril can produce a more passive psychological state, oriented toward the inner world.
Nadi shodhana breathing is said to improve memory, calm the mind and regulate mood. For people who are hyperactive, tired or even exhausted, it can increase their energy levels. Diaphragmatic breathing should be mastered first and then practiced during nadi shodhana to ensure that all airflow is smooth and consistent.
SIDEBAR: Sample Workout: Stabilization and Endurance Focus Incorporating Mindfulness
To increase mindfulness during a client's session, try these suggestions:
Bring awareness to breath with diaphragmatic breathing while using a foam roller for self myofascial release. Work on the adductors, calves, iliotibial band, hip flexors and lats, holding still on tender spots for 30–90 seconds.
Complete the following poses in a circuit, holding each pose for at least 30–60 seconds, focusing on the breath.
Core and Balance
During these poses, focus on syncing breath with movement.
- plank (adho mukha svanasana) to downward-facing dog: hold each pose for 3–4 breaths, 12 reps
- bridge pose (setu bandha sarvangasana ): hold for 20–30 seconds
- upward-facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana)
- tree pose (vrksasana): balance
For the rest of the sample workout plus a guided nadi shodhana meditation and other methods for increasing mindfulness in your clients, please see “Incorporating Mindfulness Into Your Personal Training Sessions” in the online IDEA Library or in the October 2011 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.