Taking things up a notch seems to imply working harder, self-deprivation and increased effort. What if, instead, it could mean finding ease in the work, indulgence and trusting your body’s resources? Can you imagine a physical workout with a clear mind and a happy heart? Can you imagine delicious, satisfying meals that fuel instead of expand your hips and thighs? If you can courageously imagine yourself inside of the body you have, being the full human potential you are, then you are ready to take your health up a notch.
Adding yoga to your usual exercise routine can be the boost that your mind, body or spirit needs. Not in a woo-woo way, but in the way that acknowledges that human beings are more than their flesh and roles. Often health becomes the expression of one’s lifestyle, which is often the result of ones roles. In our culture, attention is given to being good mothers and fathers, employees, bosses, providers and so on. Roles begin to define not only time, but also how you see yourself in your mind’s eye. In many ways, yoga provides a place to see something in the mind and heart that is more congruent with whom you really are or in the case of improved health, how you really want to be and feel.
Yoga is not just about improving the flexibility in the body; it includes improving the flexibility of your potential. Think of yoga as the practice of expansion. You lengthen the spine; you open the joints, elongate the muscles, increase the lung capacity and relax instead of contract. It takes a strong connection with the mind to control these physiological processes. These things are not necessarily required as much in weight lifting or jogging where more of the focus is on movement rather than controlled mobility or stillness. Therefore, yoga is not only cross training for the body; it is cross training for the mind.
The big scary leap into yoga is often resisted because of the “spiritual” connection. There can be an unknown religious connotation that is either inviting or repulsive for some. There can be discomfort with a quiet environment and a busy mind. Most yoga practices do include an internal practice as well as an external physical practice. Our culture has influenced us to silence our inner world in order to meet requirements, be good or strong or to conform. Not everyone is comfortable with engaging with their internal environment. Consider the spiritual practice simply as the place to connect with your inner “knowing”. For some folks this voice speaks loudly and in others it has become a long lost distance whisper. The spiritual part of a yoga practice can be any relationship defined by one’s own beliefs or spirituality. If you allow it to be a curiosity and guide it creates freedom and space internally so that you can feel your body respond to it by opening, relaxing and even healing.
Taking your health up a notch requires getting really honest about how you live and engage with your own body and mind. The next level may require changes in habits, attitude, and ways of being or commitment to removing obstacles. Most often plateaus are not lack of diet and exercise but something that necessitates a deeper, more significant shift. The mindfulness of yoga may provide the time and space that are sometimes necessary to hear your own truths or see what you would rather deny. Getting clear in your mind and heart allows you to see or feel other possibilities that bring you closer to your own vision of better health. Perhaps, it is giving up a food which you are emotionally attached to, or it is leaving a job or relationship that is creating inner strife. It could even be the need to practice more compassion with yourself on your journey to health in such a way that you can see your full human potential as a mind, a body, and a spirit who is also healthy, happy, and whole.
Yoga means “to yoke”, to bring things together. In this case aligning the body, mind, and spirit is a step in the right direction that doesn’t require more physical effort or self-restraint but simply an honest acknowledgment of the path you have been on and the direction you want or need to go. Imagine seeing yourself on your health journey from a different perspective that is more inclusive, more permissive and less rigorous. As you envision the life you imagine, you will become more yoked in trust in the relationships between the inner and outer environments we all experience as human beings. By allowing ease, satisfaction, and even indulgence into your experience your health can move towards becoming a well fostered, mutually respectful, committed relationship that supports your unique individual expression of better health and well-being. Be courageous in exploring the resources of your inner world and the external world will naturally take your health up a notch.
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