When we hear the words mindfulness and meditation, images of sitting cross-legged, eyes
closed and breathing deeply often come to mind. Or maybe you think of slow walks through a lush, quiet forest listening to birds chirping, temporarily forgetting about Calgary’s weird,
brown, moody winter this year. You probably don’t immediately think of pumping out a heavy
ride on a stationary bike to dropping beats and alternating colored lights in a spin class.
While there are great benefits from slower forms of mindfulness and meditation, the two don’t necessarily demand you sit by yourself on a yoga matt in a dark and silent room or spend fifteen minutes slowly sipping a glass of wine. After completing a four week mental health awareness course through Alberta Health last summer, I learned that those two power words can be experienced and actualized in a variety of different and totally legit ways.
While there are a bunch of definitions floating around, mindfulness is generally described as being present and accepting in a given moment while meditation is a form of letting go — of your ego, biases, busy thoughts (you probably did not leave the stove on when you left the house this morning!) and blocked emotions. In a spin class, you can do exactly that.
Riding in a dark room with lights patterned to change with the music engages our senses hardcore and gives your body many cues to adjust with. Each instructor carefully builds your ride to fit the flow of each track, making your ride feel more natural rather than forced, which workouts unfortunately can often feel like. With each heel drop, you step away from nagging thoughts of a difficult work assignment or the speeding ticket plopped in your mailbox that morning. Instead, you drop further within yourself, underneath of that surface noise and just let yourself be (and makes ya feel like a Queen B).
The repetitive motion of cycling also helps induce a meditative state. Traditional cultural practices, like drumming, are now heavily integrated into modern therapy due to the anxiety reduction and reprieve repetitive activities provide. In the days way before you could Google how to life at life — I’m talking like 1300s with no electricity and a lot of really cool castles — a group of Islamic Sufi’s called the Whirling Dervishes performed a dance called sema where they literally spun and spun themselves into a transcendental state. And it actually is still practiced today. Of course, preforming it involves years of practice, but is one of many examples of how repetitive physical movement helps us reach an elevated state. I guess you would just have to make sure that you don’t spin yourself unconscious…Don’t do that!
While not everyone has the time to learn how to spin into an otherworldly dimension, you can at least get the stress reduction, mood boost and endorphin rush from the mindful and meditative quality from a spin class. It sure beats dizzying yourself from scrolling through your phone for too long.
For me, spin is a chance to separate from the relentless pings and dings of my phone (if it’s not on silent, that is!), from feeling lack luster during solo workouts and most importantly it gets me in synch with my rhythm. Whether you’re new to mindfulness and meditation or not, it is always worth trying new forms of movement and keeping an open mind to the unconventional to find out what centers you and feels right.