How do most of us react when the temperature starts to climb out of the frozen zone? We throw open the windows, shake out the winter dust and stagger into the sun again. The spring in our step leads us to the yoga studio with the fervor of a vortex. We strive to make up for lost time now the days become longer. It suddenly seems easier to establish and commit to a schedule uninterrupted by the cold. Yoga classes, gym memberships, and beauty salons all climb in attendance as we prepare for the stripped down summer.
The pursuit of the body beautiful is relentless. We spend an immense amount of our resources on the exterior. Think about all the time, money, and energy that can go into the maintenance of our physical body. Clothing, cleaning, exercising and feeding the body consumes such a large part of our lives. We may be obsessed with the upkeep of our hair alone. Think about how we can obsess over it from the top of the head down to the bottom of the legs. The cleaning of it, the styling of it and the removal of it all requires many hours, and a great deal of money. Standards of physical perfection brought on by cultural demands can also breed stress and anxiety over our appearance.
Stress is a sure sign of an imbalance in our lives and a perfect way to ruin our summer fun. The yogi's that race out of the class before savasana to make it to the hairdresser are in serious need of balance in their lives. We are out of balance when our vast inner world is ignored. As suggested by Eckardt Tolle, we must "Get the inside right and the outside falls into place."
We have an immense interior world made up of thoughts, feelings, imagination, peace, love and prana. These subtler energetic levels of our being vibrate within and are just as real as the bones in our body. Leave the judgment at the door and begin the process of balancing our inner and outer lives with kindness and self-compassion in these three easy steps:
Step One: Set an Intention:
We don't need another to-do list. What we need is a to-be list. Wake up in the morning and think about or even better, imagine how we want to be on this day. Do we want to be peaceful and loving today? Do we want to be productive on this day as we allow our intuition to become a larger part of our decision-making so we can flow from task to task with ease? Do we want to be healthier? Then we can plan to be more mindful with our eating habits.
Make a commitment to choose love in every situation. It is better to be happy that to be right all the time. Consider all the options for being a certain way and let the doing part follow rather than lead.
Step Two: Show Some Gratitude
A gratitude practice is a daily acknowledgement of the many miracles that surround us that we take for granted. There are scientifically proven benefits of writing down one new thing a day we are grateful for in a journal. These include increased physical and mental health, a shift from negative to positive thinking, goal attainment, better attitude, less envy and jealousy, an increased willingness to be helpful to other, and will dissolve compulsive wanting. "Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate that which they already have"- Buddha
We could be happy right now, by putting the desire to consume on hold. Be grateful for the real and most valuable things in our life like relationships, experiences and our health. Remember to thank our body for all the silent work that goes on behind the scenes to keep us functioning day to day. We don't even have to think about breathing, or our heart beating and all the other ways it keeps us alive. An attitude of gratitude will accelerate the healing processes of the body. So show your body some love by promising to make healthy choices to support its work. Fill yourself with gratitude for your amazing body.
Step Three: Meditate!
Any kind of meditation will lead you within to a place of authenticity past all the labels we identify with. We are so much more that our hairstyle, gender, occupation, marital status, shortness, tallness, race, politics. As Wayne Dyer put it, "We are spiritual beings having a human experience." Try his way of defining our selves more as a spirit within a body, than a body with a spirit. The best way is to literally go deep within where a true self, full of potential resides via a meditative practice.
Start by closing our eyes to leave the exterior behind and begin relaxing the body by becoming mindfully aware of all parts from our head to the soles of our feet. Once we release stress that has been hiding there, we can calm our emotions with some deep breaths. The constant stream of thoughts can best be handled as clouds floating by, as we just watch them come and go without attachment. This will start to slow them down to the point where we become aware of the presence of peace. We can then literally experience the peace that is within us all. We feel a deep thaw occurring within. It is time to melt the walls we have built around our hearts and exercise the finer, subtler dimensions of our bodies.
Remember that yoga means Union, so practicing yoga actually means to merge mind/body/spirit in equal proportions. It is not just for building muscles so we look hot in a bikini. Taking equal care to balance the outer body with our inner world by using more of our intuition, imagination, love and allowing positive energy to flow freely, is the recipe for year round happiness and health and a perfect way to greet the summer in a new way.