Mind-Body Fitness

The important role of the mind has been largely neglected in popular fitness activities. In recent times this has led to a renewed interest in the integration of the mind into regular physical fitness activities.

This synergist approach in health and exercise appeals to diverse people with different fitness levels and is appropriate in various life situations. The main aim is often to promote stress management and aid in the release of tension and discomfort caused by modern lifestyles.

To achieve the mind-body connection various traditional as well as innovative new exercise programmes have gained in popularity in recent times. Many of these programmes are based on both modern fitness methods and traditional disciplines and draw their inspiration from the following mind-body techniques and methods, scientific approaches and holistic healing therapies:


Physical exercise of any type aids in stress release. Regular participation in exercise activities provides a natural way to release accumulated tension in the body and it also leads to an automatic state of relaxation that naturally follows after a good workout. Stretching, especially, is a natural stress reliever. Properly stretching the muscles has numerous benefits, among them the achievement of a relaxed and peaceful state of mind.


Although it has taken many years for this ancient art form to be recognised world-wide, recently much attention has been given to Yoga due to its various health and fitness benefits. Yoga is believed to be one of the most effective and wholesome forms of exercise, not only for the body but also for the relaxation of mind.

The Pilates Method

A popular mind-body conditioning method developed by Joseph Pilates. It combines Eastern and Western philosophies of physical and mental development and aims to promote neuro-muscular harmony, balance and co-ordination, while increasing strength and flexibility. The mostly full range of motion exercises can be done with or without special equipment and each movement is executed according to six basic principles: control, concentration, centering, focus, precision and breathing. The particpant is encouraged to master the mind in order to gain complete control over the body.

Relaxation Techniques

A variety of relaxation methods used in mind-body activities and therapies, including Controlled Respiration (Breathing), Autogenic Training, Systematic Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

Scientists often refer to the end result of these relaxation processes as the ‘relaxation response’. The most commonly used relaxation technique is controlled breathing, which is widely regarded as the foundation of relaxation and stress management.


Meditation has been practised by people in religious contexts for thousands of years, but it has also gained much scientific evidence in modern times. Unlike hypnosis, which is more of a passive experience, meditation is considered to be an active process in which the participant is mentally alert, while physically relaxed and the body passive. This mind-focusing technique is particularly useful in managing stress, as well as after physical activity.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This field of practice attempts to change negative thought patterns and dysfunctional attitudes in order to promote healthy and well-adjusted thoughts, emotions, and actions. This form of therapy usually has four basic components: education, learning new skills, rehearsal, and generalisation and maintenance. Relaxation techniques are frequently included as a behavioural skills component.

The Feldenkrais Method

A somatic learning method developed by Moshe Feldenkrais. It focuses on the learning of new movement skills and its integration into daily life. The brain is taught to make sensory distinctions and improve functional movement patterns. Unlike conventional exercise, it is not directed at the muscles or body as such, but rather focuses on mental development and increased neuro-muscular body awareness. It combines movement education, gentle touching and verbal feedback to create more efficient movement.

The Alexander Technique

A method developed by F. Matthias Alexander, an actor who created the method for his personal use after discovering that his poor posture was responsible for his chronic voice loss on stage. The technique uses gentle touch and verbal guidance to teach participants simple, efficient ways of moving. The aim is to improve balance, posture, and co-ordination and to relieve tension and pain. Participants are taught to identify and eliminate movement habits that interfere with the natural balance and ease of the body. It is an educational process that focuses on changing the way a person thinks about and performs their activities and improving the way the activities are done.

Martial Arts

These disciplines are often better known as a methods of self-defence or combat. However, they are also beneficial in the development of physical fitness, as well as to promote mental and spiritual development. Theses highly disciplined activities are aim to unite body and mind and bring balance to the participant’s life. The external disciplines, such as Karate and Judo, usually emphasise muscular strength, power, agility and endurance, while the internal methods, such as Tai Chi Chuan and Aikido, are aimed at relaxation and mental focus.