A few months ago I returned to the practice of yoga after a break of some years. Once only an addition to a weekly exercise routine, it has now become a daily practice in its own right and the results I have felt in my mind, body and general state of well-being have been profound.
Searching for ways of re-connecting with myself and feeling centred have been a lifelong journey. Meditation has been a long-time companion of mine and an effective “way in” to calming my mind and reconnecting with myself. However, more recently I decided I wanted to develop a practice that would not only be a way into my being, but also into my body. Afterall we are embodied beings.
Having become increasingly interested in the body-mind connection, especially in relation to psychotherapy, I find that a daily practice which involves body and mind is very helpful in reducing stress and anxiety, increasing emotional resilience and creating a sense of well-being. What do I mean by this? Well, not only do I notice the everyday satisfaction of feeling my body becoming more flexible and my mind becoming quieter, but I am more aware of how my mind and body communicate with each other and reflect each other. For instance, trying new poses can feel like an adventure, going beyond the fear of attempting something new (with caution!), like standing upside down, can result in a sense of achievement and stretching beyond the comfort zone.
Yoga, like other forms of movement, is supposed to increase flexibility, strength, and balance, alongside calming the mind. It is also supposed to make us more body-aware, increase the function of internal organs and improve our posture – the way we move through and stand in the world. Perhaps the most apt explanation of mind and body integration is the sense that attending to one part of me involves attending to the rest as well. Everything is interconnected, but we need to find ways of reiterating, practicing, and remembering this.
Of course, my daily yoga practice does not mean life is now stress-free, but it certainly feels more peaceful and that I increasingly carry within me a resilience – a buffer – whereby I take things less personally. Daily practices such as yoga and embodied meditation, in addition to a deeper exploration of oneself in psychotherapy are, in my view, two of the most effective ways of building resilience in both the mind and body, connecting with self and others, and living a more fulfilling life.