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When Apple Fitness+ launched last year, I started incorporating the HIIT and strength training sessions into my at-home workout routine. But I was lukewarm on the app’s yoga classes. The instruction is good, but the very elements of the workout classes that appealed to me—the energetic trainers and playlists, and the ability to track my workout on my Apple Watch—don’t mesh well with my personal asana practice, which since the pandemic has been slower and more centered around Yin and restorative yoga than fast-paced vinyasa flows. But a new watchOS 8 feature has convinced me that Fitness+ and my Apple Watch might have a legit place in my mind-body practice after all.
Apple launched its Breathe app—an experience that encourages you to focus on your breath for a few minutes each day—in 2016. This week, they upgraded that experience, and added a new feature called Reflect to the app, which is now called Mindfulness.
See also: What Is Mindfulness, Really?
Using the Mindfulness app
The Breathe part of the Mindfulness app is similar to its previous iteration: You tap the app to start a one- to five-minute experience (you can choose the length in the settings). You inhale and exhale slowly as the animation (which still resembles a blue flower) on the Watch screen expands and contracts. You can also just close your eyes and breathe using the haptic feedback—it feels like a gentle buzzing on your wrist—that tells you when to breathe in and out.
A few minutes might not seem like long enough to calm your mind, but research shows what yoga practitioners have long understood: a few slow, steady breaths can trigger what Harvard Medical School calls a relaxation response, which can be a way to combat stress.
The new feature Reflect, encourages mindful intention-setting. Simply tap on the app and it gives you a simple idea to focus your thoughts, such as: “Think about a moment that inspired you to be a better person. Why was it important to you?” or “Think about the last time that you made something. It could be a meal, art or a project. Recall the details of what you made.” For the next one to five minutes, the watch screen displays slightly trippy blobs of shifting color. I reminds me of the flow of a lava lamp, and watching it is similarly mesmerizing.
“You can’t overemphasize how important it is to take a moment to direct your thoughts,” says Julz Arney, director of fitness for health technologies at Apple. Arney and her team worked with members of the clinical health team to develop Reflect, which is grounded in reappraisal science—an emotion-regulation strategy that can help you modify how you think about a situation.
Reflect’s prompts focus around three areas proven critical to well-being: renewal (relaxing and recharging), connection (feeling in touch with others and yourself), and growth (new thoughts and experiences). The prompts offered by Reflect help you access these ideas in the moment, but repeatedly bringing your attention to ideas like kindness, gratitude, resilience, and awareness can help shift your overall mindset.
You can schedule Breathe and Reflect sessions to start and end your day, or ask the watch to ping you throughout the day with reminders to practice.
See also: The Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
Coming soon: guided meditations
On September 27, Fitness+ will launch guided meditations (along with Pilates classes). Fifty 5- to 20-minutes sessions will be available on the platform at launch, with around seven new meditations to be added each week after.
The meditations are centered around nine themes, including kindness, generosity, creativity, and awareness. You’ll be able to watch a video version on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, or listen to them on Apple Watch’s Mindfulness app. The meditations are lead by Fitness+ trainers who teach mindful cool down and yoga classes for the platform, as well as two new trainers specializing in meditation, Christian Howard and JoAnna Hardy. Howard and Hardy have a combined 40 years of experience teaching both traditional and insight meditation.
See also: The 12 Best Meditation Apps
Should you use the Mindfulness app?
As a yoga practitioner, I know that I have the tools within to practice mindfulness and meditation without apps and tech gizmos. After all, people have been reaping the benefits of these practices for thousands of years without them. In fact, I meditate most mornings by just sitting quietly and watching the ebbs and flows of my mind.
But as a busy editor and mom who often feels like half the balls I’m juggling on any given day are scattered on the floor around me, I appreciate nudges to incorporate my more mindfulness into my day—and you might, too.