The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Month of Fundays: Day 11 – Practice Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates or Meditation

Here’s the thing. I’m not a team sport type of girl. I don’t like to exercise with a crowd (although I have gotten better at this). The most aerobic thing I enjoy doing is dancing like a fool in my kitchen, which is NOT something I do in front of other people. Yes, I think we should all move and exercise. Yes, I think calorie consumption and calorie burning should happen on a daily basis and that some of those – if not all – calories should be healthy, appropriate calories. In a nutshell, I’m a yoga practicing, hiking, swimming, bicycle riding type girl who could sit around for hours on end reading or writing. Today as you read this blog post, remember I am a girl living in MN who has strong religious and political beliefs I don’t like to share in this forum. I practice yoga, Pilates, tai chi sun and meditation on a regular basis but I’m not trying to make a religious or political statement by doing so – I’m telling you how much fun it can be to practice one of these disciplines. As with the Origami blog-post, I’m unclear about the cultural ramifications of practicing someone else’s religious and ceremonial beliefs as a form of entertainment. If you practice tai chi, yoga or meditate long enough, you will eventually figure out some of the ancient purposes for the discipline – when something makes me feel this peaceful and at one with my inner workings, I’m likely to do a little research on the subject. I still think this is a good thing – the wanting to know about other cultures and even practice some of their rituals, but I realize a lot of people don’t feel this way. I’d also still like to know what you all think on that subject – it keeps popping up during this month of fundays…

First a little basic info on the four disciplines I mentioned above:

Mediation – The simplest/most generic of the lot. To mediate you just need to think deeply or focus your mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.

Yoga – From the religious standpoint, I understand it is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. Most Westerners practice Hatha or Sivananda yoga as a system of exercises practiced as part of a daily discipline to promote control of the body and mind. Hatha is the strength building exercise, physical poses and Sivananda usually includes the poses plus focus on breathing, meditation, diet and positive thinking – healthy living through the disciplines of yoga.

Pilates – a system of gentle exercise performed lying down that stretches and lengthens the muscles, designed to improve posture, flexibility, and general health. It was developed by Joseph Pilates, who essentially urbanized many yoga poses whilst creating his core-strength building regimen. In other words not religious or ceremonial at all, but developed specifically as a core strength exercise systems. Think professional dancers. Trust me; they all follow a strict Pilates routine.

Tai Chi – Is a type of ancient Chinese internal martial arts. Westerners practice two kinds: Tai Chi Chuan – the more martial arts related version literally meaning Supreme Ultimate Boxing; and Tai Chi Sun – meditative exercise with 97 postures and 73 forms. The forms are all done in the same order around the world; if you know and practice them enough, it is easy to follow along in a half meditative state.

NOTICE: They are all variations on a theme.

How I Practice & Why It’s Fun:
I tell myself often I can skip the yoga because I did something more aerobic already, or I’m sick, or tired, or a million other excuses constantly running through my head making me so crazy sometimes I get nothing done at all. I think Netflix and Nothing have made a deal to keep me emotionally and physically stagnant. This is when I most need to ground myself and re-center. For me, yoga is about trying to bring different things into balance; yoga is a tool I sue to unblock my writer’s dam. If I can’t find my words, then I’ve been sitting here at the computer too long. I’ll stop, pull out the yoga matt or simply stand in tree pose for a while.

If you’ve never done anything like this before and you want to try today, then 10 minutes is all you need to begin a regimen of practice. Breathing is the best way to start any of these activities and it’s amazing how quickly you can pick it up. Just stand – or sit, or lie down – and regulate your breathing. In and out through your nose in a pattern: inhale for 5 counts, hold for 3 counts and then exhale for 10 counts. I place the tip of my tongue behind my upper teeth, but you don’t have to. Use music to motivate; experiment with different types of music for different types of practice. I know you’re thinking inspirational chanting or soft instrumentals, but try jazz, rock, country, whatever feels right.

I often stop practicing altogether for months at a time; then the first time I take the me time to relax and center - I feel 100% better. It’s so much fun; you think I would have learned that lesson by now!

Picture: A maze or Zen garden. A place you have practiced, or would like to practice yoga / tai chi or Pilates

Song: I’m already back around to Mary Chapin Carpenter again. Here’s one I use for yoga frequently: “Why Walk When You Can Fly?” Fine, I’ll give you two today. I also use Sophie Zelmani’s “Always You”.

Tomorrow: Go to a Sporting Event – I really want this to read: Take Me Out to The Ballgame; but you have probably already figured out my opinion of baseball – it wouldn’t be fun at all. I realize for most people it IS fun, so by all means, catch a game for your fun day activity!

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