Mindful Movement for Healthy Aging


For more information, contact:

3500 Westgate Drive, Suite 504
Durham, NC 27707
Telephone: (919) 489-8809

Jacob Tyson is a physical therapist and yoga instructor from Chapel Hill, NC. He works for The Wellness Station, an integrative physical therapy practice in Durham, that provides care that is influenced by the Feldenkrais Method, as well as therapeutic yoga. Jacob is passionate about integrating mindful movement and other wellness practices with traditional physical therapy in order to provide client-centered, compassionate health care. His clinical interests include: musculoskeletal pain and injury, chronic pain and stress, neurological and balance disorders, lifestyle-related conditions, exercise injuries, and preventive care to optimize health over the long term.

Jacob obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Cognitive Science from the University of Virginia and his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from UNC-Chapel Hill. In addition, he completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training at Balance Through Movement. He has received comprehensive mentorship in applications of the Feldenkrais Method into physical therapy from the owner and founder of The Wellness Station, Paul McAndrew (PT, GCFP).

By Jacob Tyson, DPT

It is well-known that exercise has tremendous benefits for all aspects of health. But what if we are having trouble exercising because of the very things we are trying to protect? Our shortness of breath may prevent us from walking greater distances. Pain in our joints may prevent us from lifting weights or getting up and down from the floor in a yoga class. Our imbalance and fear of falling contributes to sedentary behavior. 

These kinds of limitations in physical activity will ultimately contribute to the decline that so often occurs with aging, which further discourages people from participating in traditional exercise routines. Reversing this downward spiral of decreased mobility—and replacing it with the habit of mindful movement—is critically important to healthful aging.

At The Wellness Station, healthy, mindful movement is our goal for all our patients. We provide movement as medicine, health care through self-care. We help you to identify the obstacles that are preventing you from being comfortably active, and guide you on the path towards enhanced health, well-being, and fitness.

Mindful Movement

In order to find more enjoyment in our movement practice, we must cultivate mindful presence while we move. Our bodies are always present, but where is our mind? Mindfulness is simply bringing one’s attention to the present moment without judgment. We cannot truly enjoy anything unless we are there for it.

Many of us are used to sitting and meditating, drawing our attention to our breath, sounds, and thoughts. By applying this same mindful presence to physical movements, we can become more aware of how we move. This foundational awareness gives us a greater sense of connection to our bodies, and the ability to change habitual movement patterns that may be placing unwanted stress on the joints and tissues.

Mindful movement decreases strain and improves comfort. Here’s a simple example illustrating this that you can practice. Consider the movement required to follow the upward flight of a bird. If you are only moving from your neck joints, this may be a pattern that puts additional strain on your neck. Bring your hand to the back of your neck; now, look up towards the sky. Does the back of your neck stay long, or does it compress? Now, practice looking up again, but this time put your hand on your chest bone. Does your chest bone rise, or does it stay where it is? Does allowing your chest bone to rise, thereby keeping length in the back of your neck improve the ease and comfort of looking up?

If we are able to change our patterns in ways that improve the efficiency of our movement, we can take strain off our tissues and feel a greater sense of comfort, ease, and enjoyment in our movement practices—and in the rest of our lives. 

Acquiring the Habit of Mindful Movement

There are some guidelines we employ at The Wellness Station that help patients become more mindful in their exercise habits.

An important first step is to re-learn one lesson. When it comes to society’s messages about exercise, we are taught that more is better. We’re told to “put in more effort for greater benefits,” and “no pain no gain.” Such messages are negative and counter-productive. Rather than movement being seen as a privilege that is empowering, it is viewed “work,” a task to complete, an activity that is associated with pain. And, for people experiencing chronic pain and mobility issues, these messages are especially harmful and can further dissuade them from exercising. 

If we want to improve our movement, we have to improve our relationship with movement. We must learn how to work with our body, instead of on our body. And we must find joy in what we are doing. When you observe children in a playground, you can feel how they love to run, climb, and try what is challenging. Pause for a moment and imagine those kids. Can you feel the joy in your own body? 

Improving your relationship with movement will be a gift that keeps on giving! You will begin to understand your limits more clearly, knowing when to put in more effort and when to scale it back. You will become more aware of how your body moves, so you can move in a way that feels good to you. This will make movement more intrinsically rewarding, as it is with children. The enjoyment of movement will support healthy levels of physical activity and fitness—all through our lives.