The first thing most of us do when we’re just a little too busy is giving up our practice or our workout routine. Of course, we do this thinking it’s for the best. Practicing is something I don’t have to do; work is more important, looking after the kids is more important, finishing up that paper, or anything else is more important. It’s easiest for us to de-prioritize taking care of the self.
"العقل السليم في الجسم السليم"
If you’re an Egyptian, you’ve probably heard this saying as a kid in class. I’ve never understood the true meaning of it and experienced it firsthand until these past few years as an adult. Looking it up now, it turns out it’s actually a translation of a famous Latin phrase: Mens sana in corpore sano; roughly translated as a healthy mind is in a healthy body. What does this actually mean? It means that the one thing you should always prioritize is you, your health, your practice. Here’s why.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means union. This is in reference to one of yoga’s ultimate purposes: aligning our thoughts, feelings and actions. And what happens when these three are aligned? We’re focused, we’re centered, we’re balanced and we’re satisfied.
Try to think of situations that you didn’t like your action in. You’ll most probably find that you don’t like these experiences because your mind was telling you to do one thing, your heart another and the action that you took at the end either only pleased one of them or none of them. Your thoughts, feelings and actions weren’t in harmony and that’s where the issue lies. When we talk in yoga about finding our balance, or feeling centered, this is where this stems from: finally finding that peace between all these three. Here’s how it works.
One of yoga’s main focus is the breath. The simple, powerful act of intentional breathing goes a long way. It slows things down and allows you to become more aware and more mindful of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Taking control of your breath means taking control of your mind and your emotional status. Read more about the breath here.
As you move through the yoga flow, from one pose to the other, besides the more obvious benefits such as strength, flexibility, mobility and so on; each pose puts you through different emotions. Some evoke frustration, others evoke satisfaction, others calmness, others unease; and all these mimic situations that we’re put in on a daily basis and what do we do in yoga? We breathe through it all and accept where we are today.
The meditative side of the practice allows you to bring your focus within. By nature, we tend to look to the outside world and judge what’s happening out there. By moving, breathing and staying mindful in the practice, your focus starts shifting to you. You start to notice your patterns of thoughts, feelings, judgements, trigger points, and more. When you take note of those, acknowledge where you are and who you are, you start to see things from other perspectives, you question certain things, you change others and you end up understanding why your thoughts, feelings and actions aren’t in harmony and how to bring them to be so.
Through yoga teachings and philosophy, from practicing giving and service, ahimsa or non-violence, vulnerability and openness, to remaining understanding and non-judging, to keeping an equanimous mind and an open heart, you’ll find yourself reaching for a better version of yourself every day, improving your quality of life and the quality of anything that you do.
What happens when we don’t put ourselves first and give ourselves all these benefits from the practice is that all those other things we deemed more important won’t be done as efficiently, lovingly and with a clear and focused mind as they would be if we prioritize our practice and keep it.
So today, and every day, keep this in mind. Think harder next time you’re busy and decide how you’ll go about dealing with that and the stress it’s bound to bring about. Prioritizing you and your health, appreciating you and your time, loving you and giving to your own self, allows you to be fully there for others and whatever life brings your way.