I've never really been one for going and exercising at a set time or anything. Rather, I just prefer to be busy and active and get my movement in during my day, or through dance. However...here are a few things I've found in the last few years which have taught me the importance of exercising, but more importantly of being more aware of my body.
Yoga Awareness Benefits
- Correct Posture. A Healthy spine is the avenue for healthy nerves. All our our nerves run through our spine and then branch out into various parts of our body and organs. But if our spine is kinked somewhere, then the nerve in that area is pinched (which means pressure or blockage for those nerves to send the communication from you brain to that coressponding area of your body). This is why someone with neck problems could have a hard time hearing if that particualr neck kink in your spine is affecting the nerves associated with your ear. (that is one of the stories from the first days of chiropractic care). See my post on Chiropractic care for more info.
- Muscle Flexibility & Yoga. I look at my little kids and think... "woah! They can do all sorts of things in their God-given flexible body. What happened to me?" haha. Wouldn't it be great if we could encourage that in our kids by helping keep their muscles supple and help them be aware? I've encouraged Ethan with yoga. He's grown up doing it and it is play for him. We just create animal poses or mimic nature (like tree or flower pose). Here is a link to help you encourage your kids with yoga. The post also mentions Cosmic Kids yoga stories to watch on you-tube that totally engage my kids. I also got a great, simple ipad app for $4 called Yoga Studio, for myself. It's very simple, versatile in length and area of focus.
- Body Awareness & Pilates. I remember a time in my life that I didn't pay attention to my hunger cues (too busy and/or stressed). This led to me losing weight. In fact, this happened to me twice in my life. Both times it was because I ignored my body's cues. I find myself trying to help my children understand their body and when they need to eat or go to the bathroom, and yet I realized that I'm not paying attention to my body as much as I'd like. So, a year after I had my second child I finally felt I could get a full night's sleep, and therefore had more energy to wake up on time. So I started waking early and exercising with this simple book of exercises for each area of the body (The Way of Stretching: Flexibility for Body and Mind, by Ann Rush). Another great thing is Pilates. They are awesome because they don't use fancy equipment and blah, blah, blah. Pilates use your own body to provide the right amount of natural resistance for your muscles. I love it! So Each week I would focus on one area of my body, until I felt I could do some basic stretches that I felt were good in that area. I'd do this along with my mindfulness routine (see later bullet point).
- Scripture Study/Notebook. Also during those mornings I started a study journal and would read my scriptures and study, capturing my thoughts (which helped me retain and go deeper). I wish I could do this consistently, but the nature of my study shifts with each new season of my life, and that's ok...because (as with all change), it gives me new opportunities to approach things differently and glean new perspectives. Regardless of how I study, I always find that those days I can put my heart into my priority relationship (with Heavenly Father), especially first thing, are the days I am most calm, happy, and life-oriented in what matters most. I hve come to love my mindful mornings. I need them to start my day right (80% of the time--allowing 20% fudge factor. ---Oh fudge....yummm! side note.) (another side note: It was fun and insightful to do a weekly focus on spiritual armor for each area that related to the body area I was stretching.)
- Mindful Morning & Slowing Down. I would love to jump out of bed singing songs and throwing open windows as I dance around the house with a big smile on my face. But...let's be honest, that usually isn't the case. I do like waking up to the sun, but it takes my body longer to wake up than my brain. So, I listen to that and honor the fact that my body needs a little longer. I lay down on my great room floor and relax my body while I think, without thinking. :) I first try to just think about my body and visualize the different parts of my body from feet up to head doing the relaxation technique where you flex for three seconds one part of your body, then relax, then continue up until you've gone through all the areas of your body. This gives awareness for muscles. But then I'd visualize my heart being a ball of bright warm energy, like the sun and I'd "track" it mentally travelling down through the parts of my body out through my feet and rooting down into the earth (like tree roots). Those roots I visualize as being grounded in Christlike attributes of Faith, Hope and Charity (and others, esp. depending on what I need that day). Then I continue the ball of warmth going through my hands to do good things that day and up through the body (keeping in mind God's spiritual armor mentioned in the scriptures--that I had been studying to give me greater insight to the importance of those areas physically and spiritually). And by the end of thinking through that, I feel more fully armored mentally and spiritually.
- Letting go & Feel the Rhythm. Once I had done all this for awhile and felt familiar with different stretches and yoga postures for each area and felt like I had created my own visualizations (rather than someone else's set ones) then I could just lay and relax and totally just feel what my body wanted needed. I'd just lay down and think about what areas of my body felt needed more energy and warmth and also what stretches I could do. I just did them, without needing a set plan. And the more I do this, the more I feel it overflows into my life: the ability to just let go of set things and find freedom in exploring and trusting my God-given intuition in knowing how to spend my time mentally and physically. There is true rhythm in life, beyond that set by alarm clocks and to-do lists. By bringing in what matters most and then letting go of all the other ideas and superfluous things I greater access my own personal "Rhythm of life"--and that is a beautiful thing.
SO that is my "yoga Awareness" program in a nutshell. And it works for me. But the principles can work for you in your own way.