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How to Listen to Your Body

9 Mindfulness Exercises for Stress Relief, Mental Health, and More

Mastering mindfulness can come with serious mental health benefits.

By Colleen TraversUpdated April 8, 2024


No matter what type of workouts you love, you’ve probably discovered that there’s a strong mind-body connection when you’re exercising. Whether you’re noticing that you’re a little better at balancing on your right foot than your left, or you realize your biceps are a little sore and opt for a recovery workout, listening to your body is a major key to enhancing your wellbeing. 

But your mind-body connection can go beyond just tuning into your body’s needs. In fact, you can use specific mindfulness exercises to get the most out of your workouts (and recovery). Mindfulness exercises are specific practices that help you slow your mind down during exercise, even when it feels uncomfortable or boring. Here, Peloton instructor Kristin McGee explains what mindfulness is, how to practice mindfulness exercises at home, and how mindfulness can benefit you beyond the mat, Peloton Tread, or Peloton Bike.

The Science of Mindfulness

For years, you might have thought you just need to put your head down and grit your teeth during your workouts, zoning out instead of tuning in. But that’s not the case. In fact, mindfulness exercises are essential to a healthy brain and body. Here are some of the biggest benefits of mindfulness, in or out of your workouts.

Reduced Stress

According to a 2010 meta-analysis of nearly 40 studies, mindfulness exercises can help reduce stress, even when the stress is related to underlying clinical issues (that is, when it’s more chronic and long-lasting than just a day or so). In another study, participants completed eight weeks of mindfulness training, then watched a sad film. Researchers found that participants who had done the mindfulness exercises were less depressed and anxious than the control group.

Improve Focus

Ever feel dismayed about your short attention span? Turns out, mindfulness exercises may improve your focus for longer durations. One study compared people who practiced mindfulness to those who did not, and the researchers found that the mindful group was able to pay closer attention when asked. Plus, the mindful group reported better cognitive flexibility (the ability to shift your attention as needed).

Better Mood

For an instant mood boost, try five minutes of mindfulness instead of five minutes of scrolling. A study from Cognitive Theory and Research found that mindfulness training reduced symptoms of depression. Another study from the Canadian Institute of Health Research found that mindfulness can help with emotional regulation and resilience. Translation: The little things that would normally drive you up a wall are less likely to reduce you to tears.

Improve Physical Health Metrics

Your body actually changes during mindfulness exercises. Your breathing slows, your heart rate slows, and your blood pressure reduces. Research shows mindfulness may even be able to improve the symptoms of specific stress-related disease, like IBS or PTSD. Combined, these benefits of mindfulness help reduce your stress levels, improve your sleep, and boost your mood. 

Mindfulness Exercises for Beginners

Mindfulness exercises don’t have to be complicated to be effective. Here are three of our favorite mindfulness exercises for beginners that you can add to your routine right now.

The Five Senses Exercise

All this mindfulness exercise requires is the ability to count to five. Using your five senses, complete the following checklist:

  1. Note five things you can see around you.

  2. Note four things you can feel.

  3. Note three things you can hear.

  4. Note two things you can smell.

  5. Note one thing you can taste—and yes, you have full permission to grab a snack for this exact purpose.

Practice Single-Tasking

We’ve been there—trying to fold laundry while checking homework, or bringing our phone with us everywhere (yes, even into the bathroom) in case we have a spare second to scroll. 

“We are so busy doing things throughout the day without our full attention,” Kristin says. “Think about how many tasks you accomplish mindlessly, something as simple as unloading the dishwasher. During a yoga practice, we make it a point to slow down and focus on our breath, pushing other thoughts completely out of our head. When we do this, we can clear up space to listen to the body.”

If you’re a mindfulness beginner, challenge yourself to only do one thing at a time, no matter how small that task may be. Pay attention to how you complete that task from start to finish, noting whether you find the task more satisfying or if you finish it quicker than usual.

Mindful Eating

How many times have you looked up from an empty dinner plate, only to realize you have absolutely no idea what you just ate? Next time your stomach is rumbling, try this mindfulness exercise for beginners: mindful eating. Put the phone in another room, and serve yourself intentionally, arranging the food in pleasing piles and noticing everything from how you drizzle your salad dressing to the steam rising off the peas. With each bite, take a moment to inhale the aroma before carefully placing a forkful into your mouth, savoring each taste as it explodes on your tongue. Aim to chew your food several times for the full sensory experience.

Mindfulness Breathing Exercises

Your breath is your biggest superpower when it comes to mindfulness. As Kristin says in her classes, your ears’ favorite sound is the oceanic sound of your breath. Try these mindfulness breathing exercises, and don’t be afraid to audibly inhale and exhale—your ears will thank you.

Take Three Mindful Breaths

Yes, three—that’s all! The next time you’re feeling stressed or rushed, take a pause to close your eyes and ground yourself. Inhale for a count of three, exhale for a count of three, and repeat three times. Open your eyes, and tackle the challenge you’re facing with a renewed sense of calm. 

Box Breathing

Another mindfulness breathing exercise that’s especially beginner-friendly is box breathing. It goes like this:

  1. Inhale for a count of four.

  2. Hold for a count of four.

  3. Exhale for a count of four.

  4. Hold for four counts.

Imagine your inhales and exhales forming an imaginary box as you breathe. Repeat this exercise for two or more minutes. Before you know it, you’ll feel more relaxed and focused. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing

A favorite mindfulness breathing exercise among yogis is alternate nostril breathing, which only requires a bit of dexterity. 

  1. Use your right thumb to close your right nostril.

  2. Inhale through the left nostril.

  3. Use your right ring finger to close the left nostril, then release your right thumb to open your right nostril.

  4. Exhale through your right nostril.

  5. Inhale through your right nostril.

  6. Use your right thumb to close off your right nostril, then release your right ring finger to open your left nostril.

  7. Exhale through your left nostril before repeating this exercise for two or more minutes.

Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety

If you deal with anxiety, you know the discomfort of both the mental and physical symptoms. Anxiety can cause physiological changes in your body like sweatiness, shortness of breath, dizziness, insomnia, and more. But mindfulness exercises have been shown to improve symptoms of anxiety. The next time you start to feel stressed, try these mindfulness exercises for anxiety. 


Grounding is a mindfulness exercise for anxiety that helps you detach from your anxious thoughts and tune into your senses. There are several ways you can practice grounding, including these suggestions:

  • Stand upright with a slight bend in your knees, arms loose at your sides. If you can, take off your shoes to feel the ground beneath you. Focus on feeling your center of gravity and your physical weight traveling into your feet, and observe the different sensations as you gently shift your weight back and forth.

  • Challenge yourself to list as many items in a category as you can (for example, players on your favorite sports team or all the albums of your favorite singer).

  • Visualize your favorite place in as much detail as possible. Imagine every part of the space from the moment you walk in, including scents, sounds, and textures.

Body Scan Meditation

This mindfulness exercise is similar to grounding in that it helps you refocus your anxious thoughts. It’s especially helpful at night if you’re prone to racing thoughts that prevent you from falling asleep. (And pro tip: The Peloton App has body scan meditations ready to go.)

  1. In a comfortable seated or lying position, take a few minutes to focus on your breathing with slow inhales and exhales. 

  2. When you’re ready, begin noticing the sensations in your feet. Note how your feet feel next to each other, the texture of your socks, and any tightness or pressure. 

  3. Slowly move up the body, pausing with each rung of the ladder for a few minutes of noticing.

  4. When you finish, end the mindfulness exercise by gently tensing your entire body on an inhale. Exhale and relax your muscles.

Walking Meditation or Yoga

Mindful movement can help you get out of your head and into your body. Try a walking meditation or a yoga class on the Peloton App. Even just 10 minutes can help you lower your anxiety.

Integrating Mindfulness Exercises with Peloton Workouts

Along with meditative walks and yoga classes, you can practice mindfulness in other workouts too. 

Be Present During Your Workouts

Remember: It takes practice to stay present. External thoughts will pop up at first. If you push them away and return to your breath, this will happen less and less.

And rather than give up on a difficult pose or exercise, breathe through it to get stronger physically and mentally.

“When we are present in our bodies, we can tap into inner strength,” Kristin says. “This helps us challenge ourselves a little more than we thought we could when we are exercising. To do this, you have to be mindful of discomfort and embrace it.” 

Be Mindful of Pain and Discomfort

While much of practicing mindfulness can be acknowledging you’re uncomfortable and doing it anyway, there’s a big difference between pain and discomfort. “Pain is your body telling you that you need to modify a pose or stop doing it,” says Kristin. “If your knee joint is aching in Pigeon Pose, then you need to modify. Discomfort is when you're in a pose, can still breathe, and don’t feel any sharp or shooting pain. Instead, you might feel a little uncomfortable as your hips release tension.” 

Continue to work on breathing deeply to get through that discomfort.

Mindfulness off the Mat

Kristin recommends incorporating a yoga practice into your weekly workouts to help boost other forms of exercise too. “Since yoga connects our mind and body through our breath, we can use that breath and connection to stay more present in any activity we do. We can be more mindful of how our bodies feel and what they might need more or less of.”

Use the same tools of being mindful during a yoga session for any workout. This will help set your pace and find that edge of discomfort. You can also try the technique when you’re not working out, encouraging a balanced mind and body all day long. That doesn’t mean you’ll successfully be mindful 24/7, but as you run through your daily tasks, try to pay attention to just that one activity, noting how you feel as you do it. Doing so can shed light on what you enjoy, what you don’t, and what you want to prioritize in your day.

“Listening to your body off the mat is a huge shift,” Kristin says. “It means you’ve stopped simply going through the motions. Instead, you are connected, more aware, and less reactive. For me, when I stop and feel my feet grounded to the earth followed by a deep breath, I can listen to what my body is telling me. This helps me move with intention or speak from a place that's more centered.”

The Path Forward With Mindfulness

As you integrate your mindfulness exercises into your daily routine, remember the importance of consistency and grace. Finding mindful moments every day will have a bigger cumulative impact than trying to cram in a longer meditation once a week. Long-term studies have confirmed that mindfulness exercises still have lasting benefits after three months and twelve months, especially among specific populations dealing with substance abuse and eating disorder recovery.  

And if you miss a day? No sweat—fire up the Peloton App, try the five senses exercise, or simply tune into your breath. Your mindful moment can happen anywhere, anytime. 


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