Happiness of stretching – body and mind

Stretching upside down - good for body and mind
This morning I went back to my Sivananda practice after several weeks of hot Bikram yoga. There’s no doubt that my body felt more stretched and limber than previously and it didn’t feel as if I was starting out cold. Almost as if all those days of practising at 40 degree temperatures has softened the muscles over the longer term! Which is good. However, I did find the headstand tough and realised it doesn’t take long for techniques and habits to be undone too. So, a balance of the two would seem good for me.

And it made me wonder about how the balance of my mind had shifted too.

The purpose of yoga is to improve the flexibility and strength of the body in order to flex and strengthen the mind. When stretching, the key is to relax into it and let the stretch happen rather than push it. When you push too hard, the body resists and goes against you. With the mind, similar processes come into play. Too much pressure can have an adverse effect, and drive you away from the goal you are seeking to achieve. Relaxing, accepting, opening up – all passive actions (though no less challenging!) are the states that bring the insights, inspiration and focus to move you to the next level.

Yoga teaches that it’s far easier to take control of the body than it is to take control of the mind. Disciplining the body, and adopting a healthy lifestyle (without excessive alcohol and stimulants!) allows you to connect with the mind and accept it rather than running away from it, using various substances to numb it or spark it!

Working in creativity, I know absolutely that stretching the mind brings just as good rewards as stretching the body. Moving beyond our comfort zone psychologically is what allows us to move forward in life, to be self-aware, to apply this to our work and relationships, to set and achieve goals, to meet new challenges and embrace change.

Stretching and moving they body ensures that we perform at peak mentally too. And of course the relaxation that comes after exercising is so much more profound and recharging than a cup of coffee or glass of wine. It’s often during that profound relaxation, mentally and physically, that the best ideas come. Many of my ideas come during meditation or on a long run.

Just think if all our businesses recognised the body/mind connection and invested in developing the two together.

The results – better esteem, more energy, sustained resilience and peak performance. Routinely.

Happiness rocks…

Es Vedra, Ibiza. Real happiness rocks...
Following our lovely Feel Fab detox retreat in Ibiza, I am spurred on to my happiness writing… Watch this space for more regular updates and please do comment and join the debate.

Every time I return from a yoga course, holiday or retreat, I notice how wonderful life is, at so many points of the day, with no prompting, with fresh eyes. It’s the very simple things that can make a difference to the quality of life. We all know that much of every day passes in a blur. We race from one task, chore, and place to the next, constantly thinking of what we have to do, and rarely pausing to notice what is in front of us right there and then. I’m not a die-hard meditator, still like a rock for half an hour a day, but just a few minutes within my morning yoga practice makes a huge difference to how my day pans out. It’s enough time to make me stop, think and see the beauty in the day, the world, the opportunities and the love around me. Doing this regularly in Ibiza, plus a twice a day yoga practice, more than oiled the wheels for a refreshed commitment back here.

For those of you who haven’t tried and remain sceptical, just give it a go. You can sit on the floor, cross-legged or kneeling, whichever is comfortable, or on a simple chair with your feet flat on the floor. Sit somewhere calm, where the view, should you open your eyes, is lovely, where you sense some scope of the bigger world beyond you. The main aim is for your back to be straight, your neck long, and your head steady and comfortable. With your body relaxed, you can let go and ignore it (well, attempt to anyway!). Close your eyes and just notice what’s around you. Sounds, smells, feelings. Notice the thoughts that interrupt. Because they will! Don’t panic, don’t resist them, don’t get cross and give-up. Accept them, let them float on and the next one come. Just sitting still with the intention to switch off for a few minutes is a good start. You need do no more than that… And when you do open your eyes and come back to the conscious world, notice how you feel. How do you feel? And credit yourself with taking the time to consciously switch off – even if you don’t feel that you did, yet…

There are many things that give us perspective in life. Interacting with children and pets, brisk walks and outdoor runs, gardening and the damp earth on your hands, the smell of home-baked food or looking into the flames of the first fire in the hearth in Autumn. All lovely. But we can’t all have all of these all of the time. We can, however, take a few minutes every day just to notice who we are, where we’re going, what we have. To access our inner selves, slow down, switch off, reboot. It’s powerful. It really works.

Seeing the Feel Fab retreaters embrace and respond to their morning meditations so positively was amazing. I hope you’re all keeping it up (?!) and for those of you who’ve not tried yet, give it a go and let me know what differences it makes to your life.

For more information on Feel Fab retreats – visit http://www.feelfab.org/

Gurmukh at Triyoga

Another lovely weekend on grace, vitality and happiness with Gurmukh at Triyoga. The fourth course I’ve done with her and they don’t get any easier! Five strenuous sessions of physical activity, psychological reflection and the confrontation of one’s inner demons. But there is no doubt that a cleansing takes place. The sense of achievement for getting through each session is huge but longer term physical benefits and emotional peace come after. Meditation this week has been deep and far less challenging than is often the case. At the same time, I’m also aware that I am giving deep thought to other issues that are clearly now at the surface. Growing and developing in life is about facing challenges, acting on them, and moving forwards. Not brushing them under the carpet and hoping they’ll go away. Grief and pain at the surface can be dealt with – grief and pain buried and ignored can’t be! So, let’s welcome tough times in the knowledge that peace and ease will follow. Yoga is about union – uniting with yourself can seem far harder than uniting with someone else – but it’s a union worth making! Thank you, Gurmukh; happy teaching in Antwerp and hope to see you again soon!

Mehrabian and Yoga

Running a development course with corporate delegates, I am struck again by the impact of our physical bodies on the world around us. And how out of touch with that impact we are.

Discussing communication, we study Mehrabian’s theory of face to face interaction. It finds that a mere 7% of our understanding comes from the words spoken, 38% from the way they are said, and 55% from non-verbal communication – ie. body language.

Continue reading “Mehrabian and Yoga”