Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. We hear it all the time. Work out at the gym. Lift weights. Run a marathon. Get our kids active in sports. And many of us are doing it. But are we really doing what is best for us and our bodies. We run to the gym to get in a quick workout. We run our kids from one activity to another, grabbing quick meals along the way. Our kids are expected to get good grades and be the star athlete and parents run like crazy to get them everywhere and keep it all together. We get stressed. We think we need to work out more, faster. We get injured. Our children get injured. More stress. They go on pain medication. We go on pain medication. Even more stress. So what is the answer? Well, as most of my friends will tell you, I think the answer to almost every health issue is practicing yoga. Aside from eating healthy and organic food, yoga is the best thing that we can do for our bodies. Yoga brings relaxation, flexibility and balance to our bodies and our minds, and peace to our hearts and souls. Practicing yoga gets us in touch with what our bodies need, focuses our minds on what is important, and gives us the ability to live a happy and healthy life.
Our bodies were designed to move. And many of us are moving . . . working out, training, and playing sports. However, traditional training focuses on training muscles specific to a sport or a type of workout. Young athletes, pro athletes and weekend athletes alike have long focused on building the muscles specific to their sport, without focus on the entire body/muscle structure. Sprinting, shooting, lifting has been the norm in athletic workouts. Research shows that practicing yoga keeps muscles flexible and aids in preventing injury. Today, top athletes in the NBA, NFL, NHL and major league baseball have started practicing yoga crediting both their quick recoveries and long careers to their practice. Both the NBA and the NFL have their own yogis who work with their star athletes. The New York Giants require all rookies and rehabbing players to practice yoga. Pro athletes like Joe Johnson, LeBron James, Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin Love and Kevin Garnett are all hooked on yoga and speak out frequently about the benefits for their muscles and bodies. Even Shaquille O’Neal at 7’ 1” practices yoga. . . using two mats of course. But perhaps even more important to their physical practice, is what the athletes have to say about the mental focus and relaxation that yoga brings to them.
Blake Griffin the LA Clippers’ 6’ 10”, 250 pound forward says:
“the mental part is just as big as the physical part. It kind of lets my mind be at ease and takes my mind off of whatever is going on.”
The athletes also talk about how yoga keeps them calm and focused during practice, games and off the field where fans and the media can definitely take a toll. Yoga was originally developed as a practice to be used prior to meditation. The asanas, or poses, warm the muscles and the body from the inside out, bringing focus to the mind and preparing it for meditation. Yoga “yokes” or joins the body and the mind. It is this focus within that helps to relieve stress and calm the mind. Each movement is performed with a deep breath, focusing the breath and the mind on the internal self. Yoga is all about the yogi. It is a time to focus within. No competition. No pressure. Practicing yoga helps every one and every body to focus within, on themselves and remove them from stress. Research shows that taking time to rest our minds allows us to perform better physically and mentally. And when we take time to de-stress, we bring a happiness to our heart and soul.
As yogis come to their yoga mats, they are encouraged to bring an intention with them. Most often this is something to which they dedicate the yoga practice or something for which they are thankful. Focusing on the good in life brings happiness to our minds. If we take the time to be thankful for all the blessings we have, we can then focus our minds on being happy and knowing that it is our responsibility and our responsibility alone to make ourselves happy. And really what else do we want out of life but to be happy.
Yoga: The union or yoking together of our bodies, our minds and our hearts.
Think about what could happen if everyone on the planet took the same moment to pause and be thankful. What a difference it could make in our world.