Since childhood I have been obsessed with the mystery that surrounds yoga. Growing up in a stereotypical,1970’s Southern California beach town I was accustom to seeing people practice yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi near the ocean and in local parks. Watching them float peacefully and happily through their routines I knew that there was something special about what they were doing. Amongst my childhood possession are two purchases from the school’s book fair. My choices in 1976 were a copy of Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and Lilas, Yoga and You by Lilias Folan. I’m sure my parents thought this was just a phase.
Ironically, my mother was a “country club” yogi - yoga practice minus the philosophy. She practiced yoga to relieve the stress that tennis and running left on her body. I watched her stretch, stand on her head, and do backbends. I’d follow along side and try to out do her by throwing in the splits. I guess you can say I grew up as a yogi influenced by the spiritual yoga revolution in my community but balanced by my mother’s practical approach to physical health . As I reflect on thirty plus years on the mat, I realize there are many lessons to be learned from this timeless practice. With much of my adult life spent in service as a military officer followed by a successful career in the highly competitive medical device sales industry, I have used my yoga practice as a security blanket, a barometer to measure ethical decisions, and as a method to return to my true self.
I could easily list twenty or more benefits of a yoga practice but the following five have been my guiding force for overcoming obstacles, maintaining my sanity, and reaching triumph.
Breathe - Breath is the ruler. The breath has an instantaneous effect on the mind. Professional athletes have long used the breath to effectively move between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems in the body to enhance performance and decrease recovery time. I equate life to playing a professional sport. When charged with adrenaline or faced with challenge the nervous system responds to these heighten senses by putting the flight or fight response in high gear. Using the breath can help navigate stressful times by slowing us down, soothing our nervous system, and allowing the brain to make clear decisions. Slowing down the breath signals to the body that everything is all right. Breath is a tool that can be used on the fly but I have found that setting aside a few breaks in the day to tune into “the ruler” provides a steady stream of clarity and calm.
Meditation - Meditation is an advisor. Meditation is a free therapist, counselor, and advice columnist. No need to drive to an office or present an insurance card, just sit and listen. Having 10-15 minutes a quiet stillness is considered a luxury for most but should be a normal part of the day like brushing the teeth. Cultivating the ability to quiet the mind is a bit of an art but finding tiny moments of...