By Debbie Borel
Stress is an unavoidable part of modern life. Trying to balance workplace deadlines, family issues, money worries, health concerns, amid a constant barrage of information overload can eventually takes it’s toll, creating wear and tear upon the body and mind.
Many external pressures are beyond our control, and now, in these times of Covid, we deal with the extra stress of the pandemic as well as feelings of isolation. We cannot always control the outer environment but we can learn to develop practices that relieve stress and restore balance to our inner environment.
The practice of Hatha Yoga has provided life changing benefits for countless people throughout time. Yoga teaches that mental and physical stress create tension that is held within the body and mind. This tension blocks the natural flow of healing energy. This contributes to pain and disease. Hatha Yoga uses a wide range of postures, conscious breathing and mental concentration to reach and release those areas of tension while developing greater strength, flexibility, endurance, balance and mental focus, bringing health to the whole being. At the end of a revitalizing class you are ready to lie down for the final reward; Savasana–the ending meditation and relaxation. It feels wonderful.
The good news is Yoga is readily available everywhere through classes, videos, books and even Zoom. It comes in many offerings; Active, Gentle, Hot, Flowing and even Chair Yoga to meet a wide range of needs. All that is required is the space beneath your feet, focus and an ongoing practice to reap it’s many benefits.
Another method of self care is the Chinese system of Qigong. It uses gentle movement, stretching, self massage and visualization to help relax the body and mind, open the joints, facilitate greater sensitivity, increase microcirculation and create an overall greater flow of vital energy. According to Chinese Medicine the definition of health is a full, smooth flowing supply of qi, or “life force.” Stress, worry and poor health all dissipate and block its supply. A regular practice of qigong relaxes the mind, charges and awakens the body and increases the supply of healing energy to the whole being. It feels like swimming in an ocean of energy! And because qigong is so gentle it can be practiced by the healthy and ill alike.
A qigong class is a bit more challenging to discover than yoga, but can be found. There are many books and videos available, as well. The Way of Qigong by Kenneth Cohen is an excellent resource on the art of qigong. It is well written, has great information and includes some simple exercises.
A great way to take a break from our techno world is to step outside. Spending time in nature is one of the easiest and most accessible methods of quieting the mind while moving the body. The old ones lived close to nature and developed the body/mind arts by observing the season’s cycles and the habits of the animals. Whether it is walking, gardening, bird watching or fishing by a lake, time spent outdoors, away from the artificial world, allows us to come into the present moment, gather sunshine and vitamin D and ground as we connect with Mother Earth.
Life’s unpredictable turns may not always be under our control. But we can establish habits that lead to pathways of empowerment. When one chooses to enter into practice, it becomes a doorway to better health and peace of mind. For a New Year, for a healthier life, choose to Enter into Practice.
Deborah Borel lives in south Kansas City where she gardens & teaches yoga & qigong. For more information go to yogabarnkc.com