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The Importance of Mindfulness & Balance

In 2020 we’ve been experiencing an altered way of life, and for many of us, it hasn’t been without its challenges.  Now, maybe more than ever, self-care and self-awareness is an essential piece of our well-being.  As a protein company, BiPro’s focus is providing clean, healthy fuel for active, busy lives. This year, we’ve taken a step back to focus not only on our physical state but also on our emotional and mental wellness. 

Kat Soper, owner of two Palm + Pine Yoga Studio locations in La Crosse, WI and Holmen, WI, is a mindfulness expert.  Kat and her team at Palm + Pine use a holistic and balanced approach to health, healing, and learning.  The operating model at Palm + Pine is simple yet quite thought-provoking, built on the belief that we need accountability + support, autonomy + community, sustainability + accessibility, and diversity + inclusivity.  Kat was kind enough to sit down with us and share insights around mindfulness techniques to carry well into the future.  

BiPro: Welcome, Kat, and thank you talking with us about mindfulness.  To begin with, what is mindfulness, and why is it important?  

Kat: Mindfulness is a term that’s been gaining popularity over the past few decades, largely thanks to John Kabat-Zinn, PhD., whose work is based mainly on the ancient teachings in Buddhism. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). 

Mindfulness matters because in a society that largely keeps us distracted and disconnected from our humanity, to be mindful is to be awake to life. Mindfulness is taking ownership of what is within our control and fully engaging from a place of non-attachment with our relationship to what we feel inside of us and all around us.  

BiPro: What are the most important things to consider when trying to be more mindful?

Kat: Practice, patience, and progress; in that order. Note that the other “P” word, perfection, is not included. When aiming for mindfulness, find meditation, breath-work, and yoga practices to build the muscle of inner strength and stability. Over time, mindfulness will become more effortless and a natural, spontaneous way of being alive.  

BiPro: How does practicing mindfulness help with physical well-being?

Kat: Assuming you are open to the idea humans are holistic and the well-being of the mind and body interconnected, mindfulness is a step towards making health care an active verb, something we pay attention to daily. As an example, we've accepted the norm that it is a priority to pay attention to our teeth and gums' well-being by brushing and flossing daily. Why would it not be imperative to prioritize positive movement patterns in the body to combat imbalances caused by modern life in the car, in the chair, or in front of screens? Why would it not be essential to make it a daily priority to tend to realistic, positive mental patterns to combat imbalances caused by fake news and the influx of messages that keep us feeling that we are not enough? At Palm + Pine, for example, we believe in a holistic approach to yoga, health, healing and learning which is why we have a multidisciplinary team and options to meet you where you're at. We offer weekly community classes anyone can drop-in on in-person or on Zoom, a digital subscription to live and OnDemand classes, six-week courses and 1-on-1 personal services.

BiPro: As a protein company focused on clean, healthy products, we must ask, how can we apply mindfulness to nutrition and exercise?

Kat: You can apply mindfulness to your nutrition and exercise by paying attention to how you eat, what you eat, and how you move. We all have different bodies, and it is essential to choose foods that give you energy, eat in a way that allows you to taste and digest your food fully, and exercise in a sustainable way and doesn’t lead to more depletion. Aim for balance, knowing it is a moving target. 

The ability to find the nuances within each decision we make is key. For example, we live in a world with chocolate milkshakes, and I intend to enjoy them. For me, it is a greater practice in mindfulness to enjoy the whole experience. Get the milkshake, enjoy it with my child, put my cell phone away, talk about the milkshake’s texture and taste, and genuinely listen to my son with a curious and open heart. I choose this over not having the milkshake at all or guzzling it down with feelings of shame or guilt and then scrolling my Instagram feed for the top five workouts for busting belly fat.  

BiPro: You’ve shared some great information around mindfulness. Switching gears a bit, in a time of worry and unrest for so many of us, how can a person be more positive?

Kat: For me, the process of becoming mindful and positive starts with being in the here and now. Taking five deep breaths and witnessing the cycle of inhale, exhale, then having radical acceptance of any unpleasant feelings or sensations. This might mean doing my best not to resist that I should be feeling something other than what I am feeling or that I am not identifying with what I am feeling. With acceptance and allowing myself to be with what I am feeling, I free myself to shift my energy towards nurturing thoughts. I can identify what is good, true, and beautiful in the given moment. Tara Brach is a fantastic mediation teacher. She’s written books and developed a simple practice around this work called RAIN. This, for me, has been tremendously healing and helpful in reducing moments of intense anxiety and overwhelm. Additionally, it’s about cultivating time to remember the things that stir our hearts towards love, time in nature, keeping a gratitude journal, doing something kind for others.  

BiPro: Any tips on how to refocus our energy on our most stressful days?

Kat: Take five complete diaphragmatic breaths. Zoom out from the situation to discern what is within your control and what is not; then act accordingly.  

BiPro: What can we add to our daily routines to promote both mental and physical mindfulness? Any recommendations for check-in activities?

Kat: Yoga, yoga, yoga! I love yoga for a few reasons, one being it is a daily practice that is accessible for all, and it is an incredibly efficient use of time because it addresses the health of body, mind, and energy all at the same time. A holistic yoga practice that includes meditation, breath awareness, and movement is the elixir to vitality. It is about cultivating daily habits. Making time for a 20-60 minute practice every day is far more beneficial than a 75-90 minute session once a week. There are so many apps available or consider a yoga community like Palm + Pine where you can attend classes in-studio or on Zoom and still have some level of accountability.  

BiPro: You mention meditation; what is the difference between mindfulness and meditation, or are these interchangeable?

Kat: Mindfulness is the state of being or the aim. Meditation is the process or the practice.  

BiPro: How does our environment affect our mindfulness? What do you recommend to improve our spaces?

Kat: Declutter your space, and it will help you declutter your mind. What in your office or workspace is essential? What brings you joy? What is extra or distracting? Donate, recycle, or toss anything that fits in the latter category. 

BiPro: Thank you, Kat. This has been so insightful. If you could leave our readers with one message about living a more mindful life, what would it be?

Kat: We are all capable of awakening to a more mindful way of living, and the juice is worth the squeeze. Any effort you put into mindfulness will be positive for you as well as positively ripple out to all those around you. 

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