Much of the practice of yoga is centered in the idea of balance. Rather than building muscle but ignoring flexibility, or flexibility without strength, we seek both. We seek to open and express and develop our self across dimensions of being: physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social. This doesn't mean that we strive for the fullest expression of each of these aspects, but that we breathe toward both: like a focal point, still and strong, able to stretch outward in more than one direction.
Life gets crazy sometimes, and it can wear on us. If you notice that you are feeling tired and weighed down by stress, a lack of motivation for exercise, and are making poor food choices, it is time to think about giving your mind and body a reboot.
There will be no lack of options for yoga classes on Thanksgiving. However, I suspect that many of my students, and many people generally will less be making a choice of which of a dozen classes to attend, than between yoga and cooking, travel, family, and other duties and pleasures. I thought I would make a few suggestions of ways to adapt your practice to the more common needs of this time of year, and to doing that practice even if you cannot make it to your usual class.
If you werer going to take an exam, would you prefer a room with workers using jackhammers outside the window, or one that is quiet? Or, if you were writing an essay would you do your best work at the library, or in a disco with strobe lights flashing and loud music? There are certainly some people who would say they prefer to work with some external chaos, but most people find focus easier in a quiet environment.
Growing up, we have all had yelled at us "sit up straight and don’t slouch". And while the motivation behind the classroom rhetoric may have been as irrelevant as not looking disciplined and sluggish, the benefits you will probably know now, are far richer.
There was a time when medical wisdom was that bed rest was good care for a heart condition. A lot of thought and research has led us away from that notion. We have come to understand the role of activity in healing, as well as in maintaining health. We also have a better idea of how multifactorial health and wellness are. One of the most interesting early studies to look at this was the lifestyle heart trial of Dr. Ornish. He showed how exercise, diet, and lifestyle support eachother.
There are many different types of 'fitness plans' for different goals and needs: reduction of lifestyle health risks, injury rehab, general fitness, stress reduction, and sport specific training are some of the main ones. Yoga can have a role in many of these programs. I've talked in the past a bit about yoga for runners, and yoga for stress reduction, and so on. Because I have had quite a few soccer players lately, I would like to talk a bit about how your yoga can be helpful, either in off season or during your playing season.
We often talk about yoga as a 'mind/body' exercise, or about the practice of 'mindfulness', as though it was a simple dichotomy: Here is a mind and here is a body and I will put them together and be mindful. I think this is all very interesting, but a lot more nuanced and complex in practice. I've been teaching introductory mindfulness techniques in daily life for a while, and my sense is that it is helpful to have a theoretical framework in place that captures some of this nuance.