What comes to mind when you think about health?
None of these are wrong, but many people forget to loop in one of the most important aspects of total wellness - the mind. Mental health and channeling positive, progressive and visionary thoughts is transformational, and what better time to highlight this truth than Yoga Day?
Too often we find ourselves under the weight of anxiety, external pressures, and self-doubt. Too often we process, and implement, and strain the brain to get through each day without giving it a chance to reset, refresh or release. It's all fight or flight and minimal, balanced thought. Mindfulness and meditation are two of the best solutions. And don't be too quick to write them off as solely Eastern practices. Their value, acceptance, and benefits are being adopted more and more by top performers and thinkers in the U.S and world over.
Don't believe us?
Check out nearly any episode of the "Finding Mastery" Podcast. Performance Psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais sits down to discuss the profound impact and habits that visualization, reflection, and meditation have had on Olympians, entrepreneurs, coaches, and everyone in between.
Maybe you're asking yourself "What's the difference between mindfulness and meditation, and where does one even begin?"
- Mindfulness = the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- Meditation = thinking deeply or focusing one's mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation
One might argue that the practice of meditation leads to a mindful state. And more mindfulness may be the trick to having a stronger, healthier outlook on life as a whole.
So how do you meditate?
There are many schools of thought on this and depending on who you ask. The practice may be designed to either empty the mind of thought or fill/focus it upon a certain thought, mantra or goal. Regardless, with yoga, barre, stretching or other physical (and non-physical) activities, meditation almost always centers upon an awareness of breath. Focused inhalation and exhalation. Deep from the stomach and diaphragm. A rising and falling of the chest. Perhaps staring upon a fixed object or perhaps with eyes closed. As you connect with your breath, distractions and stresses fade away and the mind is offered a momentary or sessional reprieve.
And what happens during and through meditation is quite liberating to those who master it.
And this leads to mindfulness?
Over time, and with concerted effort, you may find that your thinking patterns and mental fortitude are actually better than before. As you embrace deep breathing practices, states of reflection, observation, appreciation, and contemplation, you may find yourself more present in any undertaking. You may harness a stronger self-dialogue that drowns out any negative self-speak. You might better visualize and pursue your goals step by step. You might begin to observe your experiences from afar, with less guttural emotional attachment and more curiosity for how the event will shape you, and what aspects of it you can control or change.
Are there tools or resources I can use to practice?
- If you don't already belong to a Yoga studio or similar practice, it's okay!
- YouTube is a wonderful source of guided meditations, breathing practices, yoga sessions and more.
- Apps like Headspace are simple and intuitive mindfulness tools.
- Podcasts like Finding Mastery offer lots of insight.
- Block Breathing and Nostril Breathing can be practiced anywhere.
The important thing is that you just begin. When you look back one week, month or year from now, you may be pleased to find yourself more relaxed, more energetic, more balanced, more calm, and more able to conquer the days ahead. And if that's not total health, what is?!