As part of the LifePower Yoga Mount Laurel challenge, I’m exploring one of the seven axioms of yoga each day and sharing what it means to me. If you’re interested in joining the challenge (and winning some Lululemon swag), you can find all the dets here.
#3 Exercise and rest are essential to vibrant health
I go through periods where my fitness game is on point and I’m doing my own workouts regularly, and periods where I opt to just sit and plow through work or lay in bed because I’m tired and overwhelmed. If you’re anything like me, you get this, and also find yourself alternating between opposite ends of the spectrum.
Throughout life and especially in our yoga practice, we hear about working towards balance, not just in our body but in our mind as well. And when we think about balance between work/life, exercise/rest or even salad/pizza, we often view “work,” “exercise” and “healthy eating” on the opposite end of the spectrum from “life,” “rest” and “pizza.” This division creates an illusion, if you will, that the two worlds are separate and should be treated as such, and that illusion pulls us apart.
The illusion says, either I’m disciplined, I’ve got willpower and I’m accomplished or I believe myself to be lazy, unmotivated and unproductive as a result of whatever direction of the spectrum I find myself on any given day.
But what if our life was like training a muscle where both resistance and rest, that balance and interplay between the two, was not just needed but integrated?
Just like we need the resistance of curling a weight to strengthen our bicep muscle, too much of that repetitive motion, too much work, will result in injury. On the other hand, too much rest won’t allow us to challenge the bicep and break down muscle fibers. That muscle, like anything in our life, needs interconnected intervals of rest and work.
In a lot of ways, I think the key to finding a better balance is to create it and creating it starts with acknowledging that all of our life’s activities – work, play, exercise, rest, salad and pizza – are integrated.
It’s not easy to find balance and it’s not always a 50/50 ratio. Finding this balance in my own life, knowing that I am someone who plays at the extremes, has been a challenge. And so, I’ve been doing several things to help navigate that either/or mindset:
Scheduling work and rest: I’ve been scheduling downtime, something I rarely do, making time for yoga, sleeping and writing – all things that provide me with rest. Equally, I’ve made it a point to take 2 – 3 classes a week where I’m not teaching and can tune out and just work out.
Asking, “What’s my next best step? What do I really need right now?”: Asking this question is powerful because it takes away any of the “shoulds” and simply reconnects me to my body and spirit in the moment where I’m able to give myself what I need.
Breathing: This one sounds silly at first glance because we’re always breathing, right? But for me, tuning into my breath allows me to become very present. It shows me where I’m at in that moment – whether I’m angry or tired or overwhelmed. With that information, I can also bring balance back to my breath by reminding myself to breathe consciously and by controlling my rate of respiration. Personally, I like to use Square Breath to re-center my state and a few minutes of this breath work always does the trick.
To perform Square Breath, inhale for 4-counts through your nose in one continuous inhale, filling yourself up with as much air as possible. Hold your inhalation at the top, pulling in your abdominal muscles and engaging your pelvic floor. Exhale through your nose slowly for 4-counts in one continuous exhalation. Then, hold the exhalation at the bottom.
How can you schedule your time this week to create both exercise and rest? Who will you reach out to and invite or how will you keep yourself accountable?