Everyone knows physical exercise is one of the key components of wellbeing. Research suggests we exercise 30-minute on a daily basis for optimal health. In a modern world, a 30-minute daily workout becomes very challenging. Industrialisation takes us somewhere we don’t need to walk (exercise) much from one place to the other. We don’t need to plant or hunt (exercise) for food. Most of us are specialised workers, which mean we keep the same postures all day to earn money in exchange for goods and services to fulfil our needs and wants. Physical exercises are no longer our routine or ways of life unless we try to build it in. There is no way to travel back to the ancient world but when we are health conscious, we will find time and energy to optimise our wellbeing.
Finding time and energy for regular exercise is hard. There are many things going on and we are busy all the time living in a highly developed country. However, many people can make it once they set a fitness goal, but they have temptations to overdo after being physically inactive for a long time. Some of my friends and students do 10 yoga classes a week, but only last few weeks. It is not a sustainable approach and there is nothing wrong giving up within a short period of time. Our minds are determined, but our bodies and muscles take time to adjust and connect to our minds. Do we exercise as much as our body needs but not more? When we listen to our body, we will hear the answer. Just start with 10 minutes gentle exercises two times a week. Do what we feel good and see what happens. I guess your body will regularly send you a signal and tell you to stretch out. When we have self-awareness, we will find a way that works for us.
Looking for flexibility
Well-rounded routine helps us enhance body strength, endurance and flexibility. These three elements are equally important to our wellbeing. When we can reach, resist, push and pull, we can enjoy freedom of movement. I am not opposed of any kind of physical exercises but in traditional PE program at schools or popular sports games, the exercises involved are more likely to build body strength and endurance, not flexibility. It is so interesting you can easily find yoga postures from a toddler who simply enjoys his/her leisure time on a play mat. They naturally do child pose, downward facing dog or even plank. I guess we were all born with flexibility. We lose it pretty quickly when we don’t use it.
People turn to yoga for different reasons. Some of them are physical inactive for a long time. It is also common people started yoga with life-threatening emergency situations. One of my classmates in yoga teacher training started doing yoga after a car accident. Yoga teaches her how to walk again. Some others are cancer survivors or with chronic conditions. For me, after working long hours constantly for more than a decade, my stiffness and sore neck impacted my daily life and I had an urgent need to stretch my pain away. Yoga practice, repositioning the body into different poses, increases flexibility and reduces muscles pain. I was surprised how strong the results were. I did not analyse how yoga helps me build body strength, endurance and flexibility but it happens. Yoga also comes along with coordinated breathing and meditation exercises that I am able to find inner peace and strength. It is a journey of self-reflection and self-awareness. That makes yoga more than physical exercises.
Rachel is the founder of VAI YOGA and an occupational therapist. Her yoga teaching focuses on blending two powerful healings, yoga and occupational therapy solutions, to help people face practical aspects of life.