photo: James VaughanBy Crabby McSlacker
Having recently written about my twisted take on walking meditation and aqua-aerobics, I'll now confess that I've been messing around with yoga too.
I struggled with what to call this bizarre stretching/modern dance/meditation combo I've come up with. Yogatation? Crab-Chi? Dork-Fu?
But considering all its various components, and especially how weird it looks, allow me to introduce the shiny new Massively Mortifying Mindfulness Movement Meditation Method©, now available absolutely free!
Yeah, that's "Mmmmmm©" for short. Because "Mmmmmm" is kind of how you're supposed to feel doing it. At least I'm finding it pretty yummy. But then we've already established I'm a little odd.
Of course most of you don't need an alternative way to combine movement and mindfulness, because you're already enjoying one of the regular kinds of yoga.
'Cause what's not to love about yoga? You're getting stretching, strengthening, and meditative practices all rolled into one. Plus: cute workout clothes, and your own special insider vocabulary words, like namaste and asana and pranayama, so you can sound all spiritual and groovy.
And yet...some of us just don't seem to be yoga people, even if we keep feeling like we should be.
Cartoon: natalie dee
There are many different reasons for chronic yoga avoidance, from logistical to physiological to philosophical. (Mine is simple: I don't much like being told what to do or when to do it).
But whatever the reason, if you're looking for a more flexible movement/mindfulness alternative, consider adding some "Mmmmmm" to your daily routine!
1. A completely private area to move around in, or else a total lack of self-consciousness. Because done properly, getting your Mmmmmm on makes you look quite seriously deranged.
2. Appropriate music is advisable, unless you find it too distracting, in which case, screw the music. Only you will know what kind of music you want to experiment with, any suggestions I make might just spoil the whole thing.
3. Some undisturbed time, anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour. (For some reason I find 35 minutes seems about perfect).
4. Props are optional, but may add to your experience--stability balls, steps, straps, broomsticks, lightsabers, domesticated animals, flaming torches or whatever works for ya.
5. Clothing: any damn thing you want, whether it's exotic and evocative...
photo probably public domain; swiped from: here
Or not. Comfort, both physical and psychological, are paramount. You're gonna look nutty no matter what you're wearing, so no worries about what imaginary onlookers might think.
1. Move around, and savor the deliciousness.
But the thing is: "Mmmmmm" is not "exercise." It's a weird species of mindfulness, in which you find a series of places in your body to become aware of and feel pleasure in. This creates a focus that's salient enough to for you to get meditation credit, yet pleasant enough that you want to keep returning to keep appreciating it and playing with it.
As most yoga people know, there is a sweet spot when muscles and joints are moved just the right way, which can feel wonderful, like an exquisitely calibrated massage--that is, if you are paying enough attention to notice.
There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to move your body to find these sweet spots. And it's not just individual muscles either--there are movement patterns, whether swinging or rocking or relaxing into stillness that can be profoundly sensual and pleasurable. And strangely enough, the more sore, stiff, or old you are, the more intense the pleasure is when you hit one of the sweet spots just right.
The problem is, we rarely make a goal of finding and savoring this pleasure when we exercise. Sadly, this seems to be true even in most yoga classes. We barely pay attention to pleasure as we plunge right through to where it gets hard or uncomfortable and we get to challenge ourselves and be all virtuous. We're programmed that way: as soon as we start "exercising" we start attempting to strengthen something, or increase our range of motion or our endurance, or burn more calories, or improve our shitty balance or our pathetic posture or whatever.
All that stuff may be great for you, and as it happens, much of it happens incidentally during when you let yourself just Mmmmmm. However, those things are not our goal. Instead, we buy off the achievement oriented parts of our brain with the notion of meditation credit. So the busy achiever is satisfied, and then we can ditch all those other movement-related goals and have a grand old time!
Mmmmm...More Instructions and Tips:
Getting started: Turn on your music (if you choose to use music), close your eyes, and feel your body. What do you notice?
Then start moving, gently at first, and pay attention to how it feels. Basically, you just futz around until you find something that feels good, and explore all around it, expanding and moving the sensation until it feels like time to find something else. If you're lucky, with eyes closed and lovely music playing, you may soon find yourself in that surreal place where music and movement and sensation all blend together in a trippy blissful way.
But often your mind will wander, just like it does in any form of meditation. Don't fret, just move a different body part and notice how it feels.
You can do little movements or big ones. You can invent poses or stretches. You can use the floor or walls to push or stretch or move against, or use your props. You can linger on an index finger, rotating it around, or you can leap up and dance... awkwardly or gracefully or as melodramatically as you please!
Yes it's kinda like yoga... But it's almost better if you don't know much yoga, because you don't want to be constrained by an organized way of exploring your body and miss out on your own strange inventions. It's fascinating how many ways you can bend, twist, swing, rock, thump, drag, roll, push, or even hurl various part of your anatomy.
But you can try looking at conventional yoga poses that seem reasonably comfortable or appealing for you, and imagine yourself sneaking slowly up on them or twisting around in them or dancing through them or sinking into them contentedly and staying right there for as long as you damn well please, and not being forced to move on too soon by a perky yoga instructor with 17 more asanas to get to before the next class rolls in.
If something hurts, you're doing it wrong. However, easing gently towards the hurt, around the hurt, tickling the edges of the hurt, can feel quite lovely. And later on you may find you are moving closer to it than you did before, yet still staying on the pleasure side of the pleasure/pain border.
Multitasking is allowed, but not deliberately pursued: You may find you are inadvertently strengthening one part of your body in order to use it to maximize deliciousness in another part, and not even noticing discomfort because your attention was on the fun part. (Bonus, Yay!) Or you may be challenging your balance or flexibility. This happens in conventional yoga too, but the difference is that in doing Mmmmm, if you catch yourself noticing that the challenging aspect feels unpleasant, you get to back right off to where it feels comfortable again. There's none of the "breathe into it" crap.
Ditch all those "rules": You don't have to do a fixed number of repetitions of a movement, or do things in any order, or pay more attention to parts of your body that are "tight" and need "fixing" than other parts. Similarly, just because you do something on the left side doesn't mean you have to do the exact same thing on the right side.
The more often you do Mmmmmm, the less you will have to combat an internal agenda about getting to all your body parts. Whatever you don't play with today, you can play with tomorrow.
I have my Mmmmm time first thing in the morning, with a cup of coffee nearby, and I'll open my eyes and wander over and have a sip whenever I feel like it. I don't believe caffeinated companions are encouraged in most exercise or dance studios.
One caveat: while I pretty much suck at sitting meditations, the only kind I've had any luck with over the years involve body awareness. So my brain has been pre-wired to tune in a bit more intently to the feelings in my muscles, and my experiences might be a bit more delightfully intense for me than for a normal person. But even for relatively normal people, some unstructured movement time can be a great gateway into the whole sucky meditation thing, with 95% less tedium and restlessness!
What do you guys think, am I totally nuts this time? Would you do anything like this, or do you already have the movement/mindfulness stuff covered?