Often times after summer, we fall out of the fitness mentality and into the warm comforts of autumnal bliss. Sitting in front of the fire, we forget to move, and the idea of body awareness, movement and breath falls out the window. Instead of playing sports, we begin to watch them.
This fall, what can we do differently? How can we break our habits and increase our mindfulness, and mind-body relationship with itself and our environment?
Below are several ways to keep fitness at the forefront of your mind and body this fall with mindful meditation, exercise for the brain, body and breath.
Each morning, wake up 10 to 15 minutes earlier and spend a little extra time with yourself, focus on your breathing, how the breath enters the body, how it makes you feel as you breathe, and how it exits the body. Pay attention to what happens to the rest of the body as you continue to breathe and continue to do the exercises, playing with the lengths of the inhales and exhales. Make it an enjoyable experience, So that it is an opportunity to learn more about your breath, your body and yourself. There is always an opportunity to expand our mental, physical and emotional selves. And this is one of them.
Meditation is exercise for our brains. The central nervous system, which is run by the brain, controls our body and how it functions, making it a crucial element of our fitness regimes.
Taking care of our brain IS taking care of our body. A study led by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, found that meditating for only eight weeks actually changed the brain’s grey matter. Grey matter is associated with processing information as well as providing nutrients and energy to its neurons. This is why it is said that mediation has shown to improve memory, empathy, sense of self and stress relief.
When school is in session, mental acuteness is just as important for the parent as it is the child. Meditation is proven to sharpen the mind’s focus, lower stress levels and help manage anxiety for the student and teacher, and ultimately the parents. Meditation is key to prepare and react to your children’s energies. When sitting in the car line to pick up the children from school, arrive 20 minutes early to prepare mentally for the sprightly youth to jump into cars with inquisitive and ever-so exuberant minds and bundles of energy bouncing off the walls and in the car seats. Meditation lowers our stress, raises our endorphins and prepares us for anything that will ensue.
For those that require more of a structured schedule to hold us accountable, one can begin a yoga practice. It is a great mental and physical exercise that improves balance. Yoga, meaning union of the breath with the body, brings self-awareness, acceptance and peace with our body-mind relationship, and with our body and mind relationship with it’s surrounding environment. One can begin to practice at home or in a studio with others. The beauty of yoga and life is that the choice is ours. Yoga provides us the freedom to practice it anywhere: outside, inside, by ourselves or with others. And, it all begins with the breath. Yoga begins with the relationship of the breath and body. We clear our minds on the mat and nothing else matters nor does it have to even exist. Only the here and now matter with our body and breath. This form of meditation is a beautiful practice synchronized with movements, certain “asanas” or poses that have specific benefits, depending on what we need during that moment. Yoga is a mental, physical and even for some, spiritual exercise that provides balance for our habitual imbalances, whether that imbalance is in our bodies or minds.
The beauty of yoga is that there are different kinds for different people. The type of yoga that is most fitting at that moment is the type that works for the individual. There is no right or wrong answer. There is what is right now. We are blessed being of this technological age where knowledge is literally overflowing at our fingertips. With the touch of a button, all our questions can be answered. However, with such over saturation and access to knowledge, we can often get overwhelmed and weighted down with all these external stimuli being thrown at us. Which type of yoga is most fitting for us, for me, for you? There is meditative, spiritual, physical, hot, Bikram, Iyengar, Kundalini, power, restorative and many, many more. Thus, we stop searching and go within. We go back to the breath. Let’s keep it simple to keep us moving forward. Keeping it simple is essential moving forward. "One breath at a time" is an inviting and achievable place to start; it is a great motto to adapt so that we can reach our goals and keep moving, keep living and keep breathing. With the breath we remember that, although it appears simple, the benefits greatly outweigh it’s simplicity. Remember that breathing keeps us happy, lowers our stress, focuses our mind, and energizes our body. It is an empowering notion. So much can come from so little.
So this fall, sitting in front of the fire, we can gaze into the golden embers, get lost in their glow and begin to focus solely on our breath and body. As we cherish the relationship with our mind, body and breath, everything else fades away and out of existence. We can ignite life in our bodies, blood cells and brains by a single breath. The only constant in life, that ever present ebb and flow of air, we can begin to improve our relationship with ourselves and those that are around us by beginning a journey of mindful meditation. Exercising our brains and bodies, we fall in love with the mindful meditation, our mind, our bodies and ultimately ourselves. Thus, this fall we begin our fitness journey and the rest of our lives with one breath at a time.