Immediately upon opening your eyes, you set the monkey free out of its cage. You feel it flying from one thought to the next, and the next, and the next!
A Conversation Between Mind and Body
In predawn hours an orange-red glowing sun lifts itself effortlessly over the horizon. Wish I could say the same about this body. Birds sing a sweet melody. Delicate, limber bodies fly fluently branch to branch. I envy the freedom of their bodies and minds. Wish I could say the same.
Mind speaks loudly to Body: “Quit complaining!”
Body replies to Mind (with an exhausted voice): “I’m so stiff! Your excessive thinking throughout the night sends waves of stress into me, leaving this body tired when it should be alive and ready to rise. Then, immediately upon opening our eyes, you set the monkey free out of its cage. I feel it flying from one thought to the next, and the next, and the next! You’re so caught up in that monkey. By the way, the monkey does not seem very happy. Constant negativity, judgments, and analyses come out of its mouth. Oh, occasionally he’s happy; OCCASIONALLY being the operative word.
Mind replies: “Body, you complain too much! I take very good care of you. I feed you nourishing foods. We do cardio, weight training, and some really fun classes”.
Body replies: “Yes, that’s all good for me and I feel very strong but as you can see we are having a hard time getting out of this bed”!
Mind replies: “What is it that you need, Body?”
Body replies: “I need to stretch, need to breathe beyond my chest level, and I need you to practice mindfulness. We need yoga.”
Mind replies: “You know you’re not flexible enough to do yoga…”
Body interrupts: “How many times must I tell you? I do not have to be flexible to do yoga; yoga will make me flexible!” And yoga quiets your monkey. Don’t worry he won’t leave you. But you’ll know how to handle the monkey in your mind. Once you control the monkey, this body will relax”.
Yoga is the stilling of the mind, not to empty the mind, nor to sweep things under the rug. Yoga helps us to relax with the monkey mind of thoughts. The result: less stress, a relaxed body, and a more peaceful way of life.
There’s a multitude of benefits from yoga. You can start at any age. Whether one is recovering from surgery, has a chronic illness, or cannot get out of bed, there’s a practice for everyone. Yoga is not one size fits all. If the body does not agree, you move to the degree that it does. Several modifications and styles are available.
The flexibility that Yoga creates helps prevent injury and helps the body to heal more quickly. Breath and postures help detox body. Yoga strengthens the body both externally and internally, as well as increases bone density.
Yoga strengthens and tones, thighs, ankles, arms, and waistline, and aids in digestion and elimination. The core is another main focus of yoga postures. These muscles play a very important role in stabilizing postures and moving from one to the next. Using abdominal muscles throughout a class will result in a strong core. Muscles throughout the body are engaged in aligning our skeletal structure and holding the body safely in place. Standing postures help to strengthen hips, which can be very important after having hip surgery.
Breathing techniques aerate the lungs, removes phlegm, gives endurance, soothes nerves, tones the entire breathing system, and can lower blood pressure. Some breath techniques can tone the core significantly. It also calms the mind and relaxes the body. These are just some of the several benefits from yoga breathing.
As we get older, we need yoga even more. Yoga slows aging. Yoga based stretching may result in longer telomeres, parts of chromosomes that affect aging. Yoga keeps the body flexible to handle simple tasks. Like bending to pick something up; lifting out of a chair with ease. We often take these movements for granted. How often do you say to yourself, “I’m so grateful to pick something up, and get out of a chair with comfort?” Yoga reminds us to be grateful for the simple things in life. As we become filled with more gratitude, we realize we have more than we thought.
Yoga increases balance. Certain postures enhance balance and, in older students, can reduce the risk and fear of falling. Yoga also fends off weight gain. According to researchers, middle-aged adults who practice yoga regularly gain less weight. Yoga supercharges the brain. A half-hour of yoga, performed on a consistent basis, increases memory and focus and helps you process information more accurately and quickly.
Yoga reduces depression, protects your heart, and promotes better sleep. It eases back pain, curbs neck pain, and will boost body confidence, relieve headaches and reduce inflammation.
As you move through your yoga practice, you learn to still the mind. The more you calm your monkey mind in yoga class, the more it remains calm off the mat and in your daily life. Yoga can rewire your brain so that when a situation arises you do not REACT with old habitual habits but you RESPOND with new ones learned through the stilling of the mind. A still mind equals a happy union of body and mind.
Fitness Incentive has several yoga classes to suit your needs. Let the instructor know you are new to yoga and they will help you and show you modifications as needed.
We’ve added a NEW BASIC BEGINNER YOGA CLASS: TUESDAYS 8:30-9:15 AM.
About the Author
Karen Britton is a certified Yoga Instructor and a regular contributor to Fit to Print. She teaches Yoga classes and programs at Fitness Incentive.