Yoga is not one of those four-letter words!
Story: Alan Steelman
We are in the midst of an unprecedented mental and physical health crisis. The pace of life in the digital age and social and economic change are simply too great for many people to cope without using stimulants and other health-destroying substances.
In a country of 320 million, approximately 40 million practice yoga, mostly white females. Men may feel yoga is only for women and fear embarrassment because they can’t do the poses. Seniors may feel they’re too old and inflexible, and others have their own stereotypes about who does yoga.
We are blessed at birth with a “pharmacy in the brain.” The four “feel-good chemicals,” endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin, are available to all of us and can be accessed on a continuing basis through a consistent practice of mindful movement (yoga and meditation).
The vagus nerve, the most important nerve in the body, is stimulated and distributes the calming effect of these natural brain chemicals throughout every organ in the body. Conversely, when we are constantly stressed and anxious, our entire body is being bombed with cortisol, which is “Public Health Enemy No. 1.”
Some physicians say up to 95 percent of illness is caused by undigested stress. These emotional knots and toxins, just like physical knots, are uncomfortable and health-destroying. Most alarming is an increasingly large number of people feel they can’t cope without pills, alcohol, food, shopping, and the like.
The good news is yoga and meditation are available to all. The biggest barrier is the stereotype that yoga is for only super-fit females. Nothing is further from the truth.
Here’s some yoga gospel:
- If you can breathe, you can do yoga! It’s the breath, not doing the pose correctly, that counts.
- Do only what you can; never go past your limit. Pay no attention to others in the class.
- Mindful breathing is the Yellow Brick Road, your own path to a calm mind.
- The time is always NOW! Forget yesterday or tomorrow.
- MAKE time for health now or find time for illness later.
- Your own natural brain chemicals are wizards. Pills, alcohol, food, shopping are as false as the Wizard of Oz was.
- Fitness is mind, body, and spirit, not just physical.
- Commit to consistent practice, the “monkey brain” never takes a break. We’re all born with a ruminating brain.
- First and foremost, seek a calm mind, and then strength, balance, and flexibility.
- You are not your age! Stop the limiting self-talk!
About the writer:
Alan Steelman, a former congressman from Texas, is the author of “Yoga on the Yellow Brick Road: Calm Your Mind.” He is now a certified yoga instructor.