Frost, my Siamese Mutt Cat, doing her version of Downward Facing Cat Pose. She IS a natural at Yoga!
I wrote this article for the Potsdam Food Coop's Fall newsletter. I decided to re-post it here as many people commented on the words being meaningful to them. Thanks for the kind words Potsdam Coop friends!
Frost doing the "downward facing cat"!
Why I Love Yoga…and other thoughts on local, whole foods!
And you are now thinking, what does yoga have to do with the food? My answer is quite simple. When we create mindfulness through a regular yoga practice (or any other form of body awareness exercises: Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Tae Kwon Do), we consciously make healthier choices in all areas of our lives. This means healthier food choices.
Back to yoga. Why I love yoga… because it works! It works on many levels, see my above comment around food choices. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj and means to yoke or bind. Yoga is often interpreted as a method of discipline that brings union (yoking or binding) to body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is the study of the Self. Yoga gives us tools to improve our lives by stripping away the illusions that block us from connecting with our true self, with others, and with life itself.
Yoga is a whole food that nourishes body, mind, and soul. Food is sacred to the body; it nourishes and sustains us. Love is sacred to the mind and heart; nourishing the very part of us, our spirits, that gives to others and back to ourselves. Yoga is the breath of the soul; keeping our life force strong and our 3 parts (body, mind, soul) in harmony and union.
Getting down to the brass tack: I am an exercise enthusiast. Those who know me, know this well. As long as I am not sitting still, I am happy. The list of activities I have engaged in goes on and on and blurs together over the years and decades of my life. I love and have loved them all.
For many years I was into serious weight training and I felt that I was very strong. When I started to do yoga, I was humbled. I could not push up into a back bend. My arms would just not do it. After a few weeks I had the back bend thing down. Years later, I now do reverse push ups. Push ups from the back bend pose! The strength I have gained is through my whole body (mind and soul!).
Over the years I realized my yoga strength ran deeper than that. My choices around food and other lifestyle habits became more conscious in a health promoting way. I paid attention to eating with awareness, chewing food well, eating only what I needed, and stopping before I was stuffed. These habits around food and food choices slipped in the back door; all part of the study of self (ha ha, yoga!). All those years of doing yoga transformed the way I interacted with myself and the world around me and I did not even perceive it happening.
Positive things I noticed around food: not needing to fill my plate to the brim or returning to the potluck table for another round of food, being satisfied with enough, passing on the desserts as sweet foods no longer dominated my taste buds, feeling abundance and satisfaction with light meals, and reveling in the flavors / colors / textures / and gift that each meal brings.
When we stop the constant chatter inside our heads and still our minds through mindfulness activities (yoga and other body awareness exercises), we tend to make choices that are in alignment with what is best for our health without feeling deprived. This is because we have learned to live in the present moment and are aligned in body, mind, and spirit. That is the awareness that Yoga brings to our being.
A cluttered "chattery" mind and a body that is not aligned in mind, body, and spirit tends to make decisions based upon impulse and cravings without regard to what is best for long term health.
When we quiet our minds, we use our emotions to our advantage. When our minds are busy, our emotions use us.
Change is defined as the process of becoming different, substituting one thing for another, biological metamorphosis, personal development especially if seen as personally "life-changing". Consciousness is awareness of one's own existence and behaviors, inwardly attentive and mindful. Conscious change involves will and deliberateness, altering self in an intentionally conceived manner.
When we discover that something we are doing in our lives no longer serves our higher purpose as a human, conscious change is how we evolve. When we discover that the lifestyle and food choices we have made, consciously or not, are not reflections of our higher selves, we move to make change. We realize our bodies are not vibrating at our highest level of health and we seek out ways to change this: to heal current symptoms and weight issues and prevent lifelong degenerative diseases from interfering with our vibrant quality of life.
Remember that life is always for us! Life force energy is always moving towards the positive, health and healing. It is humans who tend to go against the grain of nature and turn this flow of energy against ourselves. If you allow yourself to be in this flow, positive things will just happen.
Yoga, or any body awareness type exercise, aligns our bodies, our minds and our spirits so we make life giving choices. Yoga helps us to become normalized in our eating, to reach a pattern of habits that are normal and healthy for us. Yoga (or any body awareness exercise) help us to walk into the Potsdam Food Coop, Nature's Storehouse, our local farm stands or supermarkets, and we can make choices that feed and nourish every cell of our being. We walk out with life giving, whole foods to nourish ourselves and our families.
Simply put into words by Donna Farhi, world renowned Yoga Teacher: (image compliments of Trillium Center for Yoga & Health, Potsdam, NY)