Fifteen years ago, I didn’t know what yoga was. And for all matters, you don’t need to know it either.
But what I learned from yoga was so much more important than just getting a workout or taking a stretching class. I thought I was there to get some good old fashioned exercise and maybe lose a few pounds. But over the years, I have applied the deeper philosophy behind yoga to other aspects of my life, including my worklife, to become more successful.
Yoga has to do with transformation. That means, transforming the mind and body. One of the greatest lessons in yoga is that transformation is a journey, and not a destination or a change that happens overnight. This might seem daunting – and it was to me at first, once I realized what yoga really embodies. But I applied the other core tenet of yoga, non-judgement, realizing that I was just being too hard on myself, and expecting to see change overnight by forcing to get the results.
Through my journey to date, I realized how important each and every small step was, even though it seemed I wasn’t achieving anything. Here’s how I related the basic philosophy of yoga to other forms of exercise I enjoy, and how I combine them with my ideals for healthy living.
1 | Practice Regularly
People think that regular exercise is just to train the body, but it’s also to do one of the things American’s have the toughest time with: changing bad habits. Everybody wants to eat healthier and have a fit body, but plastic surgery and fad diets don’t work because they are not sustainable.
So how can you make it last? By starting at home with small easy steps, you’ll be soon making permanent, sustainable changes in your lifestyle and emphasizing good habits. Repetition has proven to be the most effective way.
2 | Don’t Harm Yourself
Whatever type of exercise you choose to do, avoid injury. The best way to avoid injuries is to know exactly where your physical limit is and work up to it. How can you find out where your limits are? By practicing your routine on a regular basis and listening to your own body. As you exercise more, that limit will naturally change and you can adjust your routine accordingly.
I see two things happening in America’s gyms: There are people who operate so far over their limit, that they invite injuries and permanent health problems, or those that don’t exert themselves enough. In both cases, these people don’t progress as fast as they could.
3 | Clear Your Mind
Many people go to the gym to relieve stress. Yet, while they work out, they are watching the news, anxiously comparing their bodies to others, or grimacing as they brood over work problems. They are in fact producing even more tension in the body. They should be creating space in the mind to feel what is happening to the body during exercise, by clearing the mind.
When was the last time you had a mental break from all those thoughts of work, your spouse, money, and daily events? When you empty your mind, you’re really have the time to listen to your body. You’ll have a better handle on where you are physically at that moment, where you might need more attention, how to push up to your limit, or when you need a rest to avoid injury.
4 | Leave the Ego At The Door, Non-Judging
People always talk about the “ego” as if it’s a separate being living inside our heads. Sometimes it really does feel that way when your ego takes over and says or does something that you wished it hadn’t. In terms of fitness, ego must be set aside to do what’s best for the body. Learn not to judge yourself while you do the improvement work, whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, improve flexibility, or just learn how to relax. A wonder feeling of freedom comes when you stop judging your body and just learn to assess what you need to feel good.
The best way to avoid your ego is by ignoring the opinions you have about your body and sticking only to the non-emotional facts. As you work out, you might be thinking, “I hate my legs, stomach, or thighs, arms, etc”. Instead, think about what exercise routine you’ll use to help your body feel fit, relaxed, or strong. You might also notice that you feel tight, maybe your hamstrings are tight. It doesn’t make you a bad person to have tight hamstrings, does it? It just means that body part needs a bit of care and maintenance, all things that you can start focusing on right now.
5 | The Benefits Will Come On Their Own
We are a goal-oriented society who wants things fast. Making money, winning awards, and achievements are extremely important to us. And we have all had that moment when we impatiently forced our bodies to do something quickly, creating pain. Bodies, like most organic, growing things, need time to make changes. So the idea of strict, short-term fitness goals can create real problems in the mind and body. Becoming too concerned about achieving the goal can create anxiety, impatience, tension, and even anger – all things we clearly want to avoid.
The less we worry about the benefits and the more we focus on the process, the more the good habits of exercise become a normal part of our psychology. Constant, gradual change naturally brings all the benefits we wish for ourselves. So how can you get started? For me, it’s always been about taking small steps, without making too many drastic changes, too fast. Maintain those smalls steps, add to them over time, and the pressure will be off.