Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Together again: mind and body


It’s so easy to get so absorbed in our worries, plans and dreams in this busy, high-tech world that we lose touch with our bodies. Somehow when we spend too much of our time in our head we become disconnected with our physical and sensory selves. We may easily come to feel like it doesn’t matter so much if we don’t give our bodies enough rest, hydration, nutrients and movement. Or if we stuff processed food mindlessly into our mouths while trying to zone out in front of the TV.

Luckily exercise, especially mindful exercise, is a great antidote to the many ills caused by overthinking and the “monkey mind.” It can help us to get back to sensing, being and reconnecting with our bodies and ourselves. Exercise naturally leads to a more focused mind, elevated mood and our honoring our bodies and treating them well more often than not.

Any exercise, walking, weight lifting, etc., can help integrate brain and body - especially when done mindfully. But some exercises, such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates are specifically designed to focus our awareness on the here and now. Basically those disciplines teach you to breath slowly and deeply, noticing and concentrating on the sensations of your physical self, including the activation of your muscles.

One of the greatest benefits I’ve received from exercising regularly, especially practicing yoga, is to have reawakened my sensory system and developed a more unified sense of my mind-body. I am more present, experiencing more moments vs. always being on autopilot. In general I feel I am living more fully and intentionally. A greater sense of mind-body unity has made me feel more confident, positive, relaxed, patient, empowered and closer to God. Not that I never feel agitated, anxious, bummed out or disconnected, but just less often and less intensely.

The body and mind are one and the same on both a physiological and spiritual level. And the mind-body system works much better in harmony, when our sense of the here and now is not always ignored and suppressed. The good news is that if we consciously choose to spend more time on a regular basis focusing on our sensations and reconnecting with ourselves we will feel more comfortable in our own skin. We will develop more energy and will power to shape not only our bodies but our lives.

Being dominated by non-stop thinking can leave us feeling harried and stressed with little relief except to sedate ourselves with food, medications, alcohol or other less-than-healthy relaxation options. As an alternative, we can choose to relax and reconnect by becoming mindful of our breath, noticing our surrounding and the sensations of our body as we exercise and/or even when we go through the activities of daily living. Try it! All you’ve got to lose is some stress, disconnectedness and self-doubt. And maybe even some extra weight!

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