I mentioned in my last post that I planned on writing more about my insights about the treatment of the physical body and maintaining balance. Below are excerpts from my personal journal.
As I settled down to sleep I was asked if I was ready to Remember some more. I said, “Yes” and then meditated for a while. During meditation I felt guided to “rest” my mind, to calm it and focus. A conversation ensued about this feeling I have inside that tells me what my life should be versus how my life is. The feeling is so unassuming and peaceful. It is an at-easeness with life. Life and existing in this body is flowing and balanced. I was able to contact the feeling. I was encourage to continue to contact it, to touch upon it when I needed a reminder of where I am going; to use it as my compass.
We discussed yoga and why I am being led in this direction. I have insecurities about my form and my body. I have such imbalance in my musculature which prevent me from settling into the asanas comfortably. It is hard for me to see myself as proficient in yoga. My mind says, “Yoga instructors have been practicing yoga all their lives. They are able to demonstrate proper form. Their bodies are supple and balanced.” I am none of these things. In fact, I just started practicing yoga this year.
I was directed to consider my most recent yoga experiences. I have twice completed a 1 hour 15 minute grounding practice included in a set of 6 I recently purchased to prepare me for the Clubbell Yoga workshop this Fall. My reaction thus far is that it was challenging but achievable. In fact, I was able to complete it without issue though I had to modify some of the poses requiring balance. I had a win, though, because by the second round of those requiring balance I was successful (Warrior 3 and Half-moon). It was obvious to me that in order to teach others yoga I would have to work hard on mastering the asanas so that I could speak without gasping for air. lol As of now, the challenge has been to breathe properly because when I am challenged I tend to breathe heavily or hold my breath. With practice my breathing will be less strained so that I can speak and think clearly as I go through the practice.
My conclusion was that yoga presents a unique challenge far beyond the other physical challenges I have faced with high intensity and high impact activity (running and weight training specifically). Of course, the other physical activity I have challenged myself with has had its place but none assists with energy flow and balance of the body like yoga. In fact, they actually can create imbalance and inhibit energy flow (chi)! Mentally, yoga is far more challenging as well. It is easy to quiet your mind when you are running or weight training because they force you to focus on whatever movements you are performing. In yoga, your mind easily wanders and so it takes more intention to remain focused. In fact, yoga reminds me of dancing or better yet of when I would practice flag routines in high school. You are moving your body, seeking to perfect the movement of it without strain all the while maintaining breath and being conscious of the energy in your body. Yoga is an art. Truly.
Even so, I am skeptical that I can become proficient enough to feel confident. I want to continue doing what I am familiar with. My guidance asked me to consider the real purpose behind my exercise. Is it because I want to be healthy? Because I enjoy it? Or is it more because I want to maintain a certain outer appearance? Of course, I knew it was vanity that was my main motivator. I was asked to take away that motivator. What was left? Would I lift weights or go for runs if that motivation was gone? Ultimately, my answer was, “No, not as much anyway and definitely not as intensely.”
Then I was asked to consider how I felt after such intense exercise and then to compare it to how I feel after yoga. After a run I feel a brief runner’s high usually, but not if I push myself too hard. After weight training I feel tired, sometimes light headed and a day or more later very sore. After yoga my entire body feels energized. There is a stirring of energy that courses through the areas that were tight beforehand. There is a lightness as well, like I just received a massage but without the tired feeling. I feel more balanced in body and Spirit. Mentally I feel accomplished and more connected to my physical body than before.
My guidance then said simply, “Your body is your temple.” This hit home because the message all along has been to correct the years of misuse of this body to the best of my ability.
Questions to consider:
- Does the activity, the nourishment of and treatment of my body, assist in prolonging the function of the body or does it take away from it?
- What form of exercise best assists in the functioning of the mind, the body and the Spirit when done consistently?
I know running doesn’t meet this criteria. It actually leads to the breakdown of the joints, an increased likelihood of injury, and other issues. Weight training can also do these things. Taking the body to exhaustion repetitively is like running your car with the engine in the red. Eventually it will breakdown. Neither running or weight lifting assists in balancing the energy body, clearing blockages or balancing mind, body and Spirit (though I am sure some would argue that).
It’s not even that I want to live longer but that I want my time in this body to be enjoyable. I don’t want my joints to hurt or my muscles to be so out of balance that injury, poor posture and nervous system or endocrine system issues result. I don’t want my heart to be overworked, my blood sugar to get to scary low levels, or my body to respond with higher cortisone levels because it is “stressed out” from over exertion (high intensity exercise has been shown to actually cause stress rather than reduce it!).
I am not trying to discourage anyone from exercising in the traditional sense, not at all, but if you are doing it to the extreme or not listening to your body but instead pushing yourself to test your “mental grit” or prove something to yourself, then I suggest you reconsider the long-term results of doing so. Is it worth it in the long run to push your body so much? How do you think you will feel after 5, 10, 20 years of treating your body this way?
For those on a spiritual path, pushing your physical body can also delay your progress. Yes it is grounding and can “free your mind” in a sense, but it is not balancing of body, mind and Spirit. Balance occurs from the “ground” up. Meaning balanced body = balanced mind = balanced Spirit (energy, chi, etc). The balance starts with the body and moves up. As long as you occupy a body, the body will dictate how much balance you are able to achieve within it. For example, say you are an avid runner. Well, it is likely you have muscle imbalance in your hips, lower back, calves and legs. This imbalance in the physical tissues leads to imbalance in the spiritual tissues (blocks in energy). Mentally you might feel accomplished and “high” for a short while but it is not sustainable and can actually lead to avoidance of issues (as in exercise addiction, using exercise to block thoughts, becoming overly use to forced mental clarity and losing the ability to naturally quiet the mind).
Ultimately, I am being shown how our treatment of the body is shortening our lives. This is not just by what we put into our body (food, drink, substances) but also in how we use (or don’t use) it.
All of this is opposite of my previous considerations toward exercise and is taking a while for me to process and accept, but the more I feel for the answers, the more I am realizing I have not been treating my body like a temple.
I should go over where balance is needed:
- Physical – periods of rest and inactivity balanced with high to moderate periods of physical activity.
- Mental – periods of problem solving balanced with meditative states inducing peace and calm.
- Emotional – periods of giving to others emotional support balanced with periods of providing it for myself.
Of course it can and should go further than just these things. Physical is much more than exercise and activity. There is food and water as well. Not over or under eating, eating more veggies and natural foods, avoiding toxins and chemicals on the body and in the body, etc.
Mental involves managing stress levels not only through meditation but also via engaging the mind in things that bring about mental stimulation and challenge at a level that is well tolerated. Not too many losses but not too many wins (otherwise boredom). Seeking assistance and engaging in group activities is also helpful.
Emotional balance involves being in tune with ones feelings. This is also mental because it involves observing thoughts that go with the emotions and often trigger them. Setting intentions helps here – intentions to be sympathetic and attentive to one’s own needs and feelings – learning to stop being critical of one’s self, patience with self, love of self and self-care.
An individual can be happy and satisfied in life regardless of their circumstances if they can maintain balance in all areas. All external circumstances are just there to challenge that balance.