Bodily movement has long been employed as a foundation for cultivating mental skills such as attention, self-control or mindfulness, with recent studies documenting the positive impacts of mindful movement training, such as yoga and tai chi. A parallel “mind-body connection” has also been observed in many developmental disorders. We elaborate a spectrum of mindfulness by considering ADHD, in which deficient motor control correlates with impaired (disinhibited) behavioral control contributing to defining features of excessive distractibility and impulsivity. These data provide evidence for an important axis of variation for wellbeing, in which skillful cognitive control covaries with a capacity for skillful movement. We review empirical and theoretical literature on attention, cognitive control, mind wandering, mindfulness and skill learning, endorsing a model of skilled attention in which motor plans, attention, and executive goals are seen as mutually co-defining aspects of skilled behavior that are linked by reciprocal inhibitory and excitatory connections. Thus, any movement training should engage “higher-order” inhibition and selection and develop a repertoire of rehearsed procedures that coordinate goals, attention and motor plans. However, we propose that mindful movement practice may improve the functional quality of rehearsed procedures, cultivating a transferrable skill of attention. We adopt Langer’s spectrum of mindful learning that spans from “mindlessness” to engagement with the details of the present task and contrast this with the mental attitudes cultivated in standard mindfulness meditation. We particularly follow Feldenkrais’ suggestion that mindful learning of skills for organizing the body in movement might transfer to other forms of mental activity. The results of mindful movement training should be observed in multiple complementary measures, and may have tremendous potential benefit for individuals with ADHD and other populations.
- cognitive control