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Mindful : April 2016
activate your mind and your muscles By Cara Bradley Riding a bike, lifting weights, sweat- ing it out on a treadmill—what do such exercises have in common? For one thing, each can be a mindfulness practice. What- ever the physical activity—dancing the Tango, taking a swim—instead of simply working out to burn calories, master a skill, or improve condition, you can move and breathe in a way that not only gets your blood pumping and invigorates every cell in your body, but also shifts you from feeling busy and distracted to feeling strong and capable. Ready? The following steps, good for any activity, will help you synchronize body, mind, and nervous system. As you do, you will strengthen your capacity to bring all of your energy to the task at hand. Cara Bradley is founder of Verge Yoga and Mindfulness Through Movement, which offers programs in urban Philadelphia schools. She also coaches athletes in mental fitness. Cara’s first book, On the Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine, is available April 2016. PHOTOGRAPHBYPLAINPICTURE/SCOREBYAFLO WORKOUT 1 Be clear about your aim. As you tie your laces or pull on your garden- ing gloves, bring purpose to your activity by consciously envisioning how you want your guide your session. As you climb on your bike you might say, “I am going to breathe deeply and notice the sensation of the breeze and the sun and the passing scenery.” As you enter the pool, you might say, “I’m going to pay attention to each stroke, and the sound and feel of the water surrounding me.” 2 Warm up (5 minutes). Try any simple moves— jumping jacks, stretching— and concentrate on matching the rhythm of your breath to your movement. By moving rhythmically, your brain activity, hear t rate, and nervous system begin to align and stabilize. 3 Settle into a rhythm (10 to 15 minutes). Pick up the intensity, but continue to coordinate your breath and movement. If you have trouble doing this, then simply focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Eventually you’ll find your groove. 4 Challenge yourself (10 to 15 minutes). Try faster speed, more repetitions, or heavier weights, depending on what you are doing. Notice how aler t and alive you feel when pushing yourself. 5 Cool down (5 minutes). Steadily slow down your pace until you come to a standstill. Notice the way your body feels. Drink in your surroundings. 6 Rest (5 minutes). Quietly recognize the symphony of sensations flowing in and around you. Practice naming what you feel and sense. Chances are you’ll feel awake and alive from head to toe. 48 mindful April 2016