Yoga is Not The Only Mind Body Exercise You’ve Ever Known
Yoga is great for many reasons however, it does not represent all of the ways we can experience our minds and bodies as a communicative whole. The fact is, we experience our mind body connection every day. If we choose to focus our attention we can experience it every minute. We are naturally hardwired to be sensitive to our physical feelings, sensations and instincts. You experienced the tingling just prior to sneezing, you feel the sun on your face, your heart race when running up stairs, deep relaxation when you have a massage and peace when you are happy. These are all types of mind body communication yet our culture is focused on yoga as the primary way to increase that connection.
This was my experience more recently when I started working at new fitness club. I had given many mind body workshops over the years and thought that perhaps the new club I was working for might be interested in having me speak there about the mind body connection. I asked the general manager how to go about setting up a mindbody workshop for our members she responded “See the manager of the yoga department.” I remember thinking “Why? Did she know someone who arranges workshops?” It was obvious that many assume that the mind body connection and all the experiences relating to it are the sole domain of a yogi. I believe we are all yogis or our own expert mind body connector of some type or other, we experience this level of being whenever we make ourselves aware of it.
Outside of the general mind body sensation there are two types of mind body connection or relays: 1) Whenever we receive intuitive or physical feelings or get information from our bodies (incoming information) and 2) When we meditate or visualize a desired outcome for our bodies (outgoing suggestions). We then are telling our bodies what we want or would like to create.
I would suggest developing your awareness of the initial nervous system relays. Then build on those experiences to begin using the others (like the incoming or outgoing messages) in more deliberate ways. This requires heightening your sensitivity to what you are doing and paying attention to the effects. Paying attention usually implies that there has been some time and space that has no other distractions. Going to a yoga class creates that time and space but so does, Tai chi, Karate, dancing, running, walking, resting, stretching, getting any therapeutic treatments like massage or Reiki. Any physical activity therapeutic or otherwise can open the door. All we have to do is recognize the opportunity and then be mentally available to walk through that door.
Your daily workout is the perfect way to experience your mind body connection.
Focus on how your body responds to different kinds of resistance training, then try different types of stretch like a MELT or other foam roller class. Try fitness disciplines like Tai Chi, Karate, Pi-Yo, Nia or Barre. If you are an athlete you may enjoy sport specific training. I recently posted a video-taped demonstration of how to use a slide (a training tool for off season, hockey players, speed skaters and skiers). It was different than any of the workouts I had been doing recently and left me feeling challenged because it was a lateral leg workout, hard cardio-vascular workout (my heart rate was between 140 and 160 regularly) and left me feeling exhilarated as I continued to sweat for about 40 minutes after the workout was over. I was literally on an endorphin high! Recording those effects and the subtle soreness afterward was influential in getting me to do more slide workouts. In any case, I recommend keeping a mind body journal, you can record your heart rate and not just how you are feeling physically after each workout but the emotional and mental effects of each workout.
Sometimes it’s just about finding what works for you. For a long time my mat Pilates classes were my mind body haven. Many years ago I auditioned my mat Pilates class for the owner of a small yoga studio. The owner was a yoga instructor and taught most of the classes there. As I demonstrated parts of my class she asked me several questions about how I taught, my technique and style. She watched as I described how each move not only worked specific muscles but also raised life-force in specific energy centers in the body. The entire audition lasted about 15 minutes when she blurted out “You’re hired! I thought all I really wanted in this studio was yoga but you just showed me how your mat Pilates class is your yoga. It’s your way of communicating and empowering your mind body connection. “
Take the time to find your “yoga”, your discipline that will help you deepen your mind body connection the way you feel most inspired to. Explore your own mind body expertise find your own personal path to growth and development, once you have that communication tool you will never want to forget it. Keep practicing and journaling about your experiences you’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself in the process.