Imagine if you were a house and your house has been neglected for 20+ years. In all that time no one did a new paint job, mowed the lawn, or fixed the roof tiles that came loose. This is what it is like when we don’t take time for ourselves. As we age, we are going to start breaking down anyway, but neglecting our mental and physical health causes us to age faster. Like that annoying creak in the front gate that begins to accelerate the wear of the hinges, the annoying ache in your knee may be the start of something totally lame.
So what can you do? We live in a culture where working 24/7 is praised. The spouse that works all the time is providing for his or her family but taking time for you is considered selfish and lazy in some circles. But taking time for yourself is absolutely essential for your sanity. Yoga is not the only way to find that inner calm and to reduce stress levels, but it sure is a one-stop shop. Any activity where you can fully devote your time and attention for any time span is excellent. Maybe you love to knit – take time out each day where all you do is knit. Not knit and Facebook, or knit and watch TV, but just knit. This will be good for your mental health, but make sure you still have a physical activity to keep your physical health up. Maybe you like hiking. As long as it is without distraction, this is a wonderful way to calm the mind and work the body. The downside is that because you only tramp up and down hills, you tend to overwork the fronts and backs of the thighs and put lots of pressure on the knees. So, good – but not the greatest.
This is where yoga comes in. Your teacher (hopefully) guides you through a practice that includes lengthening, strengthening and breathing. I’m sure you’ve heard to count to ten before reacting if someone has really pushed your buttons – well this is a technique that you learn and refine in yoga. You will be amazed at how relaxed your body and calm your mind become when you breathe deeply through the nose. Seriously. Try it.
In yoga you will stretch and strengthen every muscle group in your body. While working out is great, it tends to only work the outermost muscles on your body. The large muscle groups like the biceps, triceps, rectus abdominus (six pack abs) all get worked, but the deepest muscles are where the magic happens. In yoga, when you are in a standing pose, you are working your body from the inside out. Your deepest abdominal muscles are working to keep you upright and the tiniest of muscles in your feet are helping you to balance as well. In most yoga classes you will hit every muscle group throughout your body – stretching the ones that are tight and working those that are weak. It is a balanced physical program that also includes relaxation aspect to relax your body and mind. By working the innermost muscles, you can be sure that the next time you step off the curb or jump up for the slam dunk, your body will be able to support you as you land. Nothing worse than eating it while crossing the street…
So if you’re looking for an activity that will help bring you in touch with the most calm, relaxed, and focused version of you – look no further. You will find it with yoga!