How to live well
Health, wealth and happiness on our stretch of the Thames
The Intelligent body
The ancient Greek maxim, ‘a sound mind in a sound body’ is an ideal that we should all strive for in our hectic, modern day life. Jacky Lampl guides us on how to train our body
to become intelligent using yoga techniques.
Very often we get introduced to yoga because we want to become more flexible and find a way to relax; two great reasons to move onto the mat.
Yet, one of the most profound reasons for starting our practice is to bring intelligence back into our bodies. It is a disconcerting thought but it lies at the heart of the relationship between our minds and our physicality. It is a powerful link and one that can really build our understanding of what yoga will achieve and how it changes our lives
You might think it will take years to master these techniques; it often does and yet with little steps you make great strides. This awareness will enable you to cope with life’s challenges; the physical and the mental. You will learn to trust your mental strength again without the instant desire to grab a pill that numbs your emotions and you will gain an insight into how your own body works that can reduce the chance of injury and chronic pain. Perhaps most importantly, body awareness is the way in which we can reduce our stress levels, improve our sleep and achieve much higher levels of energy.
Yes, you can practice feeling alive. You can start from the outside and work through the different layers and arrive at the core essence of your being. Some layers are easier than others but with awareness you can awaken every layer.
Let’s start first with something we can practice even before we step onto the mat.
Firstly, you can observe without judging. When you are with someone look at them as if you were meeting them for the very first time. Can you sense their energy? Do you see the brightness in their eyes when they speak about their passions or their sadness when talking about their disappointments? Are you really listening or are you reacting and bouncing back with answers or opinions? Do you listen to reply or do you listen to understand?
This ability to observe accurately and without judgement is imperative to our understanding of our own bodies and how yoga practice can improve our lives. It is the foundation stone upon which all else is built. Before you move a muscle you must move your mindset.
Secondly, we need to properly connect with our community. We live in an age of fast moving images and information and this makes it even more challenging to remain focused on our growing ‘To do lists’. So even if we are with someone we feel the need to connect with someone else on our smart phones. But, what if we kept our phones in our pockets and made a human connection instead? Remember, all those perfect images make an imprint in our unconscious mind. We get distracted and bombarded 24/7 and forget what really matters to us. Listen to your own inner voice through meditation and build a strong and resilient mind.
We need brain space in order to achieve this knowledge about our own bodies; above all we need to be calm. Through this technique we feel more grounded and enjoy a mutually supportive network of family and community.
Thirdly we need to focus on our breath. Indeed, most doctors agree that pregnant woman should do breathing exercises to calm their nerves, lower their blood pressure and use those exercises to focus their attention while giving birth. The mothers become calm and happy and so, in most cases, does the baby. This can work for everyone.
Breathing, one of the key elements of yoga, is called Pranayama. Through this ancient Indian system, we learn how to control the breath. According to tradition the yoga poses make the body fit for Pranayama and the breathing techniques prepare the focused mind for meditation.
A simple and highly effective Pranayama exercise is to take deep inhalations through your nose and exhale twice as long out through your nose. You will notice that quickly and after a few repetitions, you will feel much more relaxed.
As a beginner in a yoga class it is hard to combine conscious breathing and movement at the same time. You are asked to listen and to translate the instructions by moving your body into a pose. Sometimes you may get your left and right side mixed up which is perfectly normal as you reconnect with your body but through practice you will learn to re-align your body in a more balanced way.
Although the very difficult yoga poses present a big challenge they are all built on strength, balance and precision. Through focused attention you learn to concentrate --to keep your mind focused in your body. This self inquiry helps us to make space in our minds, a prerequisite for the self-knowledge which eventually leads to inner happiness.
Finally, the practice of proprioception is fundamentally important. This means we study how one part of the body relates to another, so that when we move we learn exactly where each part lies in the context of our bodies as a whole. It is not only yoga that works this way; so do all the martial arts. The more advanced practitioner moves so swiftly and so effectively because they are aware of the detail of each part of the body and how their body fits into the space around them. You will notice that your “sixth sense” takes on a more important role, as your ‘yoga’ intuition develops. This is Proprioception and it helps us to maintain our balance. By practicing we learn to listen within which helps us release and relax certain muscles and engage others. As we get older this can be especially beneficial to your balance and help you avoid unfortunate accidents especially bad falls.
It is never too late to develop an intelligent body.
©RiverTribe Magazine 2017