When Is Exercise Like Yoga?
I recently attended a spinning class. I really love these classes. The music is motivating and the teachers are high energy, encouraging us to be strong and give it our all. We are instructed to “play through the pain” and “push to get stronger”. By the end of class I’m exhausted but energized and feeling good.
Then I think about yoga and compare it with spinning and other forms of exercise. At first glance, yoga is very different from all those activities that emphasize performance, competition and achievement. Yoga is not about performance and competition. The mindset is very different. But are there any similarities?
How Exercise Works
In spinning class we do something called interval training to improve aerobic capacity and strength. Intervals alternate periods of extremely intense activity with short rests in between. Intervals “hurt”. Your mind is telling your body to shut up, keep going and ignore the pain. They’re effective, improving mental and physical strength and performance.
Yoga is so different. In yoga our mind is not telling our body to ignore its pain. It’s just the opposite. Our mind listens intently to our body and stops or adjusts if there is pain.
But, there are times during physical exercise when it feels effortless and mind and body are in sync. This is when exercise feels more like yoga and meditation.
Years ago I read a book, The Inner Game of Tennis, and the author discusses the importance of focus and silencing the mind as a way to reach peak performance. That is so hard to do. Our inner critic, a/k/a our mind, keeps telling us to try harder; to go for it; and give it our all.
But, when we can let go of those mental demands and expectations, then we become absorbed in the activity and it becomes more like yoga.
How Yoga Works
The goal of yoga is to quiet the mind. Our minds produce a constant stream of thoughts. We wonder about how we’ll get everything done. We chastise ourselves. We feel happy or worried or sad.
Yoga, unlike most exercise, is not about competition; performance; winning. It’s not about pushing yourself or playing through the pain. Yoga asks you to observe your body, breath and mind and to back off when something hurts. You can’t be quiet and relaxed – in mind or body – when you’re in pain.
Yoga is about observing yourself without judgment. It lets you take a break from competition, achievement and daily stresses. What a gift!
Take Yoga Anywhere
As I mentioned earlier, there are moments in physical exercise and sports when your mind is quiet and totally absorbed in the activity. That, to me, is yoga … whether on or off the mat.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy.
Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
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