As I sit down to write a new blog, I quickly check facebook to see the “latest and greatest” of the day. No sooner do I find today’s blog post from a My Yoga Online contributor about finding balance in life. Just the thought I had as I finished up an hour of pilates here at home after a long day of work! Hers is a great article, by the way. Check it out:
I’m so glad she touched on breath. Breath is so important. It may sound silly to you not-yet-yogis, but it really is. Take notice of your breath at any given moment during your day. Is it shallow? Do you feel stressed? Or perhaps you’re not exactly stressed but don’t feel completely balanced either? Did you know that shallow breathing can lead to lung atrophy? When stressed, try to slow your breath down. Focus both on your inhale and exhale and notice which is longer. A longer inhale speaks to your sympathetic system, the fight or flight part of your brain, and tends to energize you. A longer exhale sends a signal to your parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and recovery part of your brain, telling it “everything is okay”. Breathing equally on the inhale and exhale will both energize you and relax you, helping you find that state of inner balance between body, mind, spirit, and thought which we all crave. I know I do. When I feel my life is out of balance, my breath starts to shorten and gets very shallow. Mostly it’s because I need more time with my loved ones, more time on my mat, or more time simply being quiet.
Our bodies have many energy channels with the main one, the largest of the body, being the spinal column. Lots of good stuff happens when this energy channel is cleared: the mind calms, anxiety and stress dissipate, both hemispheres of the brain balance, and thinking becomes clearer. Using asanas (shapes or poses) and pranayama (breath), yoga helps in clearing these channels for lots of good prana (energy) to flow.
I’ve had a few things keep me from my mat recently… the cold weather, lack of time and energy, and frankly – eating like crap. You can’t move if your belly is too full! I know, it sounds completely absurd to be complaining of such things. Believe me, I do have bigger issues to worry about, but they don’t tend to keep me away from my mat. Those bigger issues tend to draw me to my mat for comfort and stress release. So why have I been focusing too much on the small things?…
The cold weather, yeah it gets me down. I don’t like being cold. Point blank. This winter I’ve developed Raynaud’s. Fun, I tell ya. Raynaud’s is a condition where your fingertips lose blood flow due to stress and/or cold, turn pale, and go numb (or as in my case, a “pins and needles” sensation). It’s unnerving 1) because I’m kind of attached to my fingers. I’d like to keep them! And 2) it can be linked to certain auto-immune diseases, like scleroderma and lupus. But I’m having that checked and not worrying (trying).
The lack of time and energy is most probably perception and self-inflicted. We should make time for what we want. But in a more realistic and honest reflection, we make time for what we have to do, therefore what we want seems to get lost. But shouldn’t we allow ourselves time for the things we want to do in addition to doing what we have to do? It’s a constant struggle, finding that balance. My struggle is finding time on my mat. Most days, I’m doing yoga or pilates at 9pm after the kids have gone to bed. And maybe I’m getting old, but I’m finding more and more that I don’t have the energy for it at the end of the day. So I’m considering getting up super early before work and squeezing it in, which does not sound appealing to me at all. So what do you do? You do the best you can. If all you can give is 5, 10, 15 minutes of stretching or just hanging out in a forward bend, that’s okay. It’s more than just sitting. And maybe, just maybe, that 5, 10, 15 minutes may motivate you to do more, stretch more, find more energy to go further into your workout.
And the food… Oh I love food, especially good food ~ veggies, fruits, cheeses, chocolates, wine, freshly baked breads… did I mention chocolates? But a bad combination or too much of anything can throw the day off-balance. And if my “diet”, or food intake, is off-balance, so goes my yoga or pilates for the day. I feel yuk and don’t want to move. The not-moving then sucks any energy I had left, and in this cold weather, that leads to less body heat. UGH, what a mess. A vicious cycle, when really all I needed was to be more mindful of what I take into my body ~ both nutrition AND breath.
So stay mindful, my friends, and don’t forget to breathe. And thank GOODNESS warm weather is on the way!