Yoga instructors will often say something like: “what we do on our mat and how we hold this posture and breathe into it, or how we react when we fall out of a pose, are all indicative of how we respond to events in our life.” I’ve said something along these lines in a class simply to bring awareness to what the mind is doing, saying, or critiquing when you come to stillness. That’s the ultimate goal of yoga - to tire the physical body, so you can bring your awareness to a meditative state. Turning down the noise in the mind is tough work! That’s why we call it a yoga practice, it truly takes dedication and commitment to reach samadhi, which means a blissful and concentrated state of meditation. If this yoga analogy doesn’t resonate with you, let me get to the heart of the matter:
Life takes practice, especially living a healthy one.
Healthy is a word that can mean a multitude of things to different people, but the framework I have cultivated examines health from four different categories; when observed as a whole, provides a sense of one’s overall health. *These are MY definitions and ultimately my opinion. Use this space to contemplate what being healthy means for YOU.*
Physical Health: eat a balanced diet of whole foods, with everything in moderation. Engage in some sort of physical activity regularly and treat your body as a temple, A.K.A. keep it as clean as possible!
Mental Health: take time each day to sit in meditation, even if only for 5 minutes. Eyes closed, noise off, and bring awareness to your breath. Observe your body like it’s your personal laboratory-- no judgment, critique, or analysis.
Emotional Health: have a clear processing system for daily events and take time for reflection. Perhaps this is through journaling, drawing, dancing, singing, or any form of expression that allows you to reflect on what emotions are present for you and how we share these with others.
Spiritual Health: feeling a meaningful connection in life. Praying, mantra, and other rituals are tools to achieve a connection with something higher. Simply noticing the signs around you can awaken a relationship with something bigger than yourself, or within yourself.
Health has become a loaded term, and one with a lot of conflict and opinions. Again, what I’ve outlined above is very simplistic, with full intention of being inclusive to people of all beliefs and cultures. This is a holistic view that encourages one to look at every facet of what it means to be healthy, feel your best, and specifically for you - personally - as the unique and magnificent person that you are. If we omit mental health, for me, it feels like waking up and only putting in one contact lens, things look crazy! If we were to omit physical health, it’d be like driving a car without ever getting an oil change, eventually it breaks down completely. I can think of plenty of analogies, but the practice of living healthy must encompass an authentic awareness of one’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health - even if your definitions differ from what I’ve shared above.
The heart of the matter in the practice of life is that nothing is guaranteed and we do not have any power or control over life's events. Sure we can make healthy choices, control our thoughts to the best of our ability, which will impact our perception of circumstances. However, in the present moment, the only thing we can attempt to fully control is our breath. So how we treat ourselves and others is truly something we need to practice on a daily basis. You don’t simply become enlightened, saved, attuned, or reborn as a perfect specimen by choosing a specific path. It takes practice and sometimes what might feel like tough work, to be a conscious and loving being.
In yoga, when you fall out of a balancing pose, or fall on your face in an inversion - pay attention to how you react. For me, I tend to get scared, especially when I fall on my head. But for some, they feel embarrassed, defeated, weak, annoyed, frustrated, angry, and the list continues! Most likely, how we respond in something as simple as a yoga pose absolutely translates to how we respond to everyday occurrences, or even monumental life events. I tend towards fear as an emotional response when I find myself in a stressful situation, but with practice on the mat and off, this can change. Even if you don’t practice yoga, stand up right now, and try to balance on one foot. You might last for a few moments, or fall right back to land on two feet. Ask yourself, how did that make me feel? What was my emotional reaction or response as I lost my balance? Ultimately, we always will end up on two feet, standing, or in what may feel like a static (yet safe) position. Life may not always be a one-handed handstand that’s exhilarating and empowering. Sometimes, life may feel like it's crumbling down, like a struggle to hold strong, and moments of falling on your face. How you react is what matters. This is our practice of life.