The sense that something was off nagged at me like the label you forgot to cut out of a brand new, impulse-bought jumper. Too often multitasking and distracted, I developed a tricky relationship with social media. Generally speaking I was not in tune and life felt too fleeting.
Years prior I had been prone to bouts of introspection, and I relished this time with myself. Life had been moving too fast and I felt that I had lost that depth in creativity, learning and living day to day.
You are the things you do and think about.
Have you ever dissected and experimented with your daily rituals? I made a time log of how I was spending my days which led to an evaluation of the relationship between how my energy levels fluctuated throughout the day, and how that was impacting my most meaningful work.
I realized when doing this that I was switch tasking with no common focus. This is in no uncertain terms dangerous and only helped by awareness that you are in fact doing it. Now, you don’t need to go cold turkey with social media, but I can honestly say a cautious six-month internet detox that involved shutting down the worst time vacuum Faceache, changed my life for the better.
This was really the beginning of it all. Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power of Now’ pulled a rug from underneath my feet and helped me understand the role of the ego, it played a part in limiting my progress for time until I had the epiphany that I was missing in this present moment too often. I had this small revelation cleaning the tiles down in the bathroom, hardly a glamorous visual, but I often fall into an easy flow-like state when I do house tasks of this kind.
It’s true that you need emotional fuel and inspiration to keep going every day and overthinking doesn’t allow the flow state to happen.
Josh Waitzkin is a child prodigy, chess player and martial arts competitor who talks about flow as therapy in his life. On a recent plane journey I watched Eric Clapton: Life in 12 bars where, along with other incredible blues aficionados, he talks about music being a vital form of therapy. Having a rich and large library built up over many years, I understood how music, and its intimate partner movement, would bring about more depth and healing in my life. Below I’ll describe some of the best types of movement to re-establish and revitalize a relationship with yourself again.
Your physical limits reveal your mental limits.
Exercise is only one aspect of health, well-being and personal development. My approach to exercise over the past year has changed completely, starting with studying and fully immersing myself in yoga full time which goes much deeper than the physical form and teaches you how to connect, not what to connect too.
Patanjali created the yoga sutras and is well known as the father of modern yoga. In these sutras he explores how to live a meaningful and purposeful life in eight steps. As well as understanding your ethical and moral responsibilities, ashtanga yoga emphasizes not only the physical aspects of asana (or poses) but the alignment of breaths with movement.
As you turn inward and manifest your prana (or life force), the way you experience the world changes and the right teacher really will send you back to yourself. As soon as this stillness and contentedness comes you can start to explore how the technique of meditation creates a deep peace when the mind is simultaneously calm and completely alert.
Meditation is God, go worship.
Yoga is not merely movement, it prepares the body and mind for meditation. Yoga nidra uses meditation and yoga to take you through four brain wave levels on a journey toward sleep. This practice requires guidance with a certified teacher for the first ten sessions. Patience is a virtue so allow some time before you notice negative thought patterns dissolving and restoration on a physical and mental level.
Yoga takes many forms and slow-paced hatha yoga gives you time to mindfully move into asana that helps you release different parts of your body. Yin yoga on the other hand is rather passive and can be done anywhere at any time. I often sneak in a little yin stretch when I watch documentaries where it works to access deeper layers of fascia whilst softening and releasing emotions arising in you. It is the ultimate test of patience for people that struggle to be still, constantly seek stimulation, and have very busy minds.
Gong meditation is a form of sound therapy, and Joshua Leeds details the study of the effects of sound on the human nervous system in his book ‘The Power of Sound’. Although I can’t find peer-reviewed literature as a reference, it is believed that vibrational frequencies can induce sympathetic resonance and entrainment by shifting brainwave states. I personally benefited from welcoming this new practice into my life, why not open your mind to something new?
See and experience movement from a unique point of view.
Vincent Yong at Danspire is a re-educator in the art and science of movement as well as decision-making, and says that mindfulness remains a concept if it is not experienced.
Bartineff Fundamentals and somatic forms of movement, if you look at it through a studio window, look a little bizarre truth be told. Awareness and control means you move with real purpose, which is important in injury prevention, tension release and connective tissue health.
I used these fundamentals with my fiancee when we were preparing for our first wedding dance, and the connection between us went much deeper than a choreographed fixed sequence of steps. In a way he became an extension of me when we moved together and I am very grateful to Vincent for helping us speak the same movement language on our wedding day.
Connection is a muscle you also have to train.
Other holistic movements tried and tested by yours truly are gyrotonic and gyrokinesis methods composed of circular and fluid exercises that flow rhythmically into the next. Now please don’t be put off by the gyrotronic equipment, I’m not setting you up and they’re not bondage beds! This movement system applies constant resistance, prevents jarring and has been shown to be effective in injury rehabilitation. Gyrokinesis on the other hand uses a simple stool and mat utilizing a repertoire of movements that are gentle on the joints whilst stimulating the muscles and organs. Coupled with breathing patterns, the focus is on spine health where you work to stabilize and increase your range of motion as joints move through a natural range without compression. Like Tai Chi it can deliver similar benefits of agility and deep internal strength.
Married to a soul and a mind, the body provides us with carnal pleasures and serves to reflect our overall spiritual and mental condition like a polished mirror… to the extent that we can discover our own, unique balance, we are whole… and once whole, we can truly dance like the free spirits we are. Qigong (Chi Kung) calls us to the dance floor of life. Garri Garripoli, Qigong: Essence of the Healing Dance.
Tai Chi is often described as a meditation in motion and is considered to be a type of Chi Gong where both arts have stood the test of thousands of years. They refer to a philosophy of internal forces where every movement is a circle that has no ending or beginning.
The beauty of it is that you start from where you are. Besides bringing down the average age of the classes I went to, I can see why Tai Chi is so popular. Ultimately, it’s very intuitive with a slow and mindful transfer of body weight supported by breath. It is a powerful form of movement so refreshing to carry yourself in this way, softening your joints and allowing a continuous flow of energy. You will learn a lot about the mechanics of movement and it really is wonderful to move with such suppleness and grace.
Connection is a strategy for freedom, discipline and a form of self-love.
During this time exploring a range of movement forms, I picked up sacroiliac joint pain (the joint between the sacrum and the ilium bones of the pelvis) which is an injury common in yogis. Healing literally means ‘to make whole’ and in my experience, injury teaches you about health, personal boundaries, and a lack of connection teaches you about what it means to be present as you move.
Trust the above mentioned are much more than just exercise. They cultivate an attitude that works to re-frame your perspective on life and I’m feeling real changes within myself. Healing emotionally or physically teaches you about love and the benefits of a mind-body connection are many. Movement with mindfulness, from taking a shower to taking a yoga class can tackle decision fatigue, bring mental clarity and add real value to your life.
My imagination and intuition are being powerfully activated. I’m softer, taller and my eyes are wide open now.
Movement has helped me return to a more natural state and I would advocate a life that is proactive. When still waters run deep, tune into the processes at work within you and bring about balance and harmony with the world around you.
Whilst on this journey I’ve developed a sensitivity I have found respect for and living more simply is much more interesting than I could ever have imagined. Oh, and on a last note… if a yoga studio has a strict no-late policy, find another studio! They’re missing the point.