What is Mindful Movement?

Mindful Stretching and YogaMindful movement means moving the body while giving full attention to the present moment experience of the here and now.

Centering awareness in what we experience here and now in the body while moving is accomplished through a gentle focus on breath and physical sensations, such as tingling, tension, warmth, pleasure, and energy.

By tuning into what it feels like to breathe and move, and repeatedly redirecting our focus back to body sensations as they arise and fall away, we practice focusing, centering our lives in the present moment. Abiding in the present moment has many benefits for the body, psyche, and spirit.

Four Types of Mindful Movement

Mindful movement is loosely classed into four categories: mindful breath, mindful walking, mindful stretching or yoga, and mindful exertion.

Mindful Breath

Many different kinds of breathing exercises are used in mindful movement. Breathing exercises for mindfulness involve changing the breath consciously and observing effects and sensations. Changing the breath can mean shortening or lengthening the in-breath or out-breath, or both.

Consciously changing the breath has powerful effects on the body. Depending on which types of changes we explore, we will experience changed sensations in the body, typically either energizing or calming, and always rebalancing and nourishing.

Mindful Walking

Mindful Walking is a mindfulness movement meditation practice that uses walking as the primary movement and object of meditative awareness.

In walking meditation, we walk without a goal in mind, to experience the physical sensations of walking rather than to arrive at a destination. During the walking, we practice placing full focus on our body sensations as they come and go.

The experiences of breath, shifting of weight, and how the ground feels under our feet are the objects of awareness.

Mindful walking offers the benefits of bilateral stimulation of the brain, which results in sedative, calming effects through regulation and balancing of the nervous system. Combined with conscious centering of one’s attention in the now moment, mindful walking is a powerful tool for grounding and experiencing the riches of now-moment-anchored awareness.

Mindful Stretching and Yoga

Yoga incorporates mindful awareness as a part of its theory and practice. It is encouraged while taking a pose to center one’s awareness on the arising sensations, including the ways that breath is changed. Awareness is lent to the varying effects of twists, tension, and stretching of muscles.

Yoga poses are designed to change the ways that body sensations arise, flow, and fall away in the body experience.

One can also use stretches that aren’t part of a formal yoga practice, with the intention of placing consciousness focus on sensations.

Mindful stretching and yoga have many benefits related to the release of tension, stiffness, emotions, and toxins, alongside the benefits of mindful, now-based body awareness itself.

Mindful Exercise

It is beneficial to apply mindful awareness to sensations arising in the body during physical exertion brought about through rigorous exercise.

Mindfully working out, observing the body as it discharges energy through intense activation and releases of energy, has many positive effects on the physical body and the mind and emotions as well.

The benefits of mindful exercise come through endorphin release associated with physical exercise, paired with the regulating and centering effects of mindfulness.

What Are the Benefits of Mindful Movement?

Mindful ExerciseMindful movement supports us in the practice of now-moment awareness.

Because the now moment is where the pleasures, joys, and important experiences of our lives are happening, it is powerful to anchor our conscious experience of our lives firmly in the now moment.

Grounding our focus into the now helps us to stay out of the painful imbalances of the mind and out of emotional turmoil. Suffering exists courtesy of the mind, in the remembered past and the fearfully predicted future, and is almost always lessened when consciousness is redirected lovingly into now-moment physical awareness of the body’s actual experiences.

Moving the body is very supportive of physical and emotional health. Movement boosts immunity and regulates emotions, bringing about peace of mind at the mental level and good feelings in our emotional worlds.

Mindfully moving helps ensure that movements we take are movements that arise organically out of what the body wants and needs to heal and nourish itself. The body knows best how to heal itself, and mindful attention to sensations in the body is how we know what the body wants and needs.

How to Make Movement Mindful?

All that it takes to make movement mindful is to pay attention to sensations arising in one’s body awareness during movement.

Similar to sitting meditation, the goal is not so much to never get distracted as it is to strengthen the muscle of choosing to return back to now-moment awareness again and again after wandering off. Gradually we grow stronger in our ability to stay focused in the now moment.

In breathing-based meditations, the breath is the focus of our meditation. In mindful movement, we make the sensations arising in the body during movement (including but not limited to the breath sensations) the location of our focus.

What Are 8 Ways to Bring Mindful Movement to Your Existing Movement Practice?

Set an Intention

Decide that your movement practice is for developing your ability to be in the moment. Intentions are powerful. When you dedicate your physical exercise, walking, dancing, or yoga practice to getting better at mindful self-awareness, the way that you move will shift gently around this core purpose.

Make the Environment Part of Your Practice

If you exercise out in nature, this vastly enhances mindfulness, as nature’s effects on the nervous system and brain tend towards entrainment to states of peace and presence. Even if you are indoors, however, you can make the objects in your environment, colors, shapes, and people around you, part of your soft focus of awareness.

Move in Silence

Exercising without the use of music greatly supports mindful moving, as most music is distracting and/or conducive to certain states of mind and body. In silence, we are practicing more purely and will be better supported to focus on the body sensations alone, as well as the effects and variations in states of being induced through movements. Rising and falling of energies, rhythms of the body, tensions and release, effort, and ease, are all more easily noticed in presence when we move silently.

Focus on the Breath

During vigorous movement, the breath becomes shorter and more intense. During stretching, breath may be constricted. During releases, we may naturally sigh and breathe deeply.

Staying mindfully centered on the breath and how it changes shape, frequency, and quality as we move helps strongly anchor us into mindful awareness of movement and its impacts on our consciousness.

Staying connected to the sensations we experience as we breathe in shorter, faster, deeper, or shallower ways, as gasps or sighs, we are also closer to the physical sensations in the body, and the ebbs and flows of body activation and gradual harmonization.

Move with Self-Compassion and Kindness

Many of us approached exercise in the past with some kind of aggression towards ourselves, as though beating ourselves into shape. Therefore it can be a very important shift in attitude to deliberately choose to be loving and kind.

Kindly witnessing all sensations, including resistance, fatigue, any pain that may come up, shortness of breath, and not wanting to continue an effortful motion, can all be kindly rather than harshly witnessed. Every aspect of the experience of moving should be folded lovingly into your self-awareness and accepted as neither good nor bad, just what it is.

Pay Attention to All Your Body Sensations, Head to Toe

As you take in the full-body experience of movement, make sure your attention touches on every body part and what it is experiencing. Our feet, calves, knees, legs, hips, abdomen, back, chest, neck, head, and even the muscles in our face, can be visited with our mindful awareness as we shift focus gently throughout the course of the movement.

Play Around with Different Points of Focus

As our workouts, dances, and hikes may incorporate different kinds of movement, we can choose to place our awareness temporarily on a specific portion, such as a cycle of movement or a series of steps.

After spending some time mindfully centering on a set of sensations, we can switch it up and choose to place awareness on another portion of the movement, such as what’s going on in our lungs and heart. Through deliberately choosing and changing anchors of awareness, we strengthen our ability to focus on portions of body awareness.

Remember Your Deeper Why Periodically Throughout the Exercise

Whatever our reasons for exercising mindfully, it helps to remind ourselves from time to time throughout the mindful movement. Moving while consciously thinking to ourselves, “I am moving mindfully because…” is a powerfully anchoring method that boosts motivation and brings our joy to the surface.

Villa Kali Ma Offers Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindful WalkingVilla Kali Ma is a healing center that incorporates mindfulness and meditation into everything we offer. Because of personal experiences, earned knowledge, and demonstrated clinical effectiveness, we embrace and encourage mindful self-compassion and mindfulness-based movement for women who are making positive changes in their lives.

Some of the ways you will encounter mindfulness and meditation within the halls of Villa Kali Ma are yoga, breathwork, mindful time in nature, mindful self-compassion therapy, meditation, shamanic journeying, labyrinth walking, somatic practices, and mindful eating.

Villa Kali Ma Outpatient Treatment for Women

3790 Via De La Valle # 313
Del Mar, CA 92014

(760) 903-5758


Call Villa Kali Ma at (760) 350-3131 or contact us to learn about our Intensive Outpatient Program for women.


It was the best 30 days of my life.


Villa Kali Ma provides a holistic, supportive, therapeutic retreat for women to recover from trauma & substance disorders. The intensive and comprehensive approach provides a compassionate path of learning, awareness, and self-love for healing. I am grateful for the sacred space provided for my reflection, my mind-body-spirit work, and my opportunity to connect with other women in this process.


Villa Kali Ma changed my life in every single aspect. Not only did the experience help me get sober and stay sober for over a year now, but I was finally able to work on my past trauma in a safe and stable environment. Not a day goes by that I’m not using a healthy tool they taught me. I am forever grateful to the staff and strong women I spent my time with there. Truly the most profound life changing month of my life.





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