If I had to boil down my philosophy of exercise to one phrase it would be exercise with intention. In my early twenties I, like many young women, exercised ferociously. I ran at full-steam, through winter snows in Idaho or viciously hot Los Angeles summers, like my life depended on it. In a way it did. My relentless exercise routine let me avoid the real problems in my life. When I ran at full-speed, with slushy paths, or steamy humidity to distract me, I was temporarily able to out-pace my fear and anxieties. Of course, once I stopped running my demons all came flooding back. This went on for many years, till gradually I was able to make the transition to my two main forms of exercise: walking and yoga.
If you're not used to exercising, it can look intimidating, and overwhelming. Exercise has become competitive, and your average big-city gym is full of people out to win — from hotshot young bankers pounding the treadmill while they watch the financial reports on the overhead TV, to people I've even seen taking business calls on a stationary bike! This is not exercising with intention, and frankly it's borderline pointless. Sure, you may be getting an aerobic workout, but exercise is about mind and spirit a well as body. If you're tuned into E! for your hour of exertion, I can pretty much guarantee that your spirit is not engaged the way it should be!
There is a reason people try to make exercise about the purely physical — exercise breaks down barriers, and releases emotions, and that can be pretty damn scary sometimes. If you've ever been to a kundalini yoga class, you've probably seen people in tears by the end. Real exercise — exercise with intention — blows out all the baloney, and forces you to feel the emotions and thoughts you've repressed behind "to-do" lists, work assignments, and plans for the weekend.
Below is a simple yoga pose that I use to calm my nerves and soothe my spirit. Commit to yourself to try it for a week. While you practice, try to calm your mind, and invite those scary feelings to be present in you.
Stand with feet together at the front of the mat, toes spread wide.Your arms rest gently at your sides, palms face forward. Your shoulders are pulled back and down, away from the ears. Press your feet firmly into the ground, firming your legs and lifting your kneecaps.
As you inhale, draw energy up through your core, and let it travel up through the spine to the top of your head. Take a moment to move your head around, finding the place where your head naturally aligns with the spine; your head knows when it finds center. Bring your chin slightly back so that the neck and spine are aligned. Gently gaze past the tip of your nose or a few feet ahead of you on the ground. Open your mouth, and allow your jaw to be soft. Find that place of connection to the ground you stand on. Breathe 5 long breaths through the nose.
If you would like to explore more yoga, I've included a complete yoga series in my book Healthy Living from the Inside Out. My yoga series doesn't assume you've exercised in the past or have any kind of on-going exercise routine, and it will help you open up your body and awaken and invigorate your soul.
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