Recently I've been revising and developing a daily practice of exercise. I've been practicing yoga off and on over the last few years, but in the last year or so it just wasn't challenging me enough and, frankly, practicing the same few sets of asanas over and over again was beginning to get boring. I tried to deepen my practice, focus on relaxing into each asana more, spending a longer time in each one, but it just didn't work. I was trying to exercise more regularly, but I kept becoming bored with it and it was harder and harder to find the motivation to continue. I soon realized that I needed to change things if I wanted to maintain a regular exercise routine.
Another problem was my posture. As I began earlier this year to be more open and listen more closely to the needs of my body and spirit, I realized that I had developed a very poor posture. When I was sitting, I slouched. When I was standing, I leaned forward. I tilted my head to one side rather than holding it straight. I was beginning to have some slight but irritating pains in my right side that were likely caused by my poor posture. I felt that my unbalanced and unhealthy posture was an expression of my low self-confidence and how unbalanced my life had become.
So I tried to develop a new exercise routine that focused on strengthening and stretching my muscles to improve my posture. But it still wasn't right. For one thing, it simply took too long to run through. As I added more exercises every week, the routine quickly began to feel like a chore. It took such a large chunk out of my day that it became a struggle to force myself to do it. Although I could feel my posture beginning to improve, I still wasn't enjoying my daily exercise. And although I exercised every morning, the rest of my day was still spent mostly sitting. I do try to move around a fair bit during the day and sometimes I manage to get out for a walk in the evening, but writing and reading, my major activities, are sedentary. Things still felt unbalanced.
As these things often happen, just when I was realizing that I had a problem, the solution presented itself to me. My mom brought home a magazine that outlined an exercise routine that was absolutely perfect for me. The routine included strengthening exercises, intensive yoga stretches, and a cardio workout - something else that I had been missing before. Even better, the exercises were spread out in three ten- to fifteen- minute sessions that were intended to be practiced throughout the day. I've made a few modifications (I can never seem to resist tinkering with things!), but I've now been practicing this new exercise routine for the last month or so and I'm very satisfied with it. The exercises are quite a bit more challenging than the ones I was working with before, but they aren't so strenuous that they leave me feeling exhausted or discouraged. The three sessions throughout the day break up my pattern of sitting and renew my energy. Best of all, my posture is improving and I'm becoming stronger and more flexible.
As I've been exercising, I've noticed another area of imbalance: the right side and the left side of my body are very different in their capabilities. Since I'm right-handed, the right side of my body is substantially stronger than the left side of my body, but my left side is more flexible. Certain exercises strain certain muscles and joints more on one side of my body than they do on the other. In a way, this is also a reflection of how imbalanced my life had become and how poorly the different aspects of my being were communicating with each other. As I exercise, I visualize my life becoming more balanced and my mind working in harmony with my body and with my spirit.
I firmly believe in the concept of connection. I make no separation between the health of my mind and the health of my body, or between my spiritual life and my "everyday" life. To me, they are all intimately connected and a part of each other. I can hardly believe how happy a simple thing like developing a daily exercise practice that works has made me. I still have many changes yet to make in my life, but if I can make this change (and love it), then I can make those other changes as well. And improving my health and my balance will also give me the energy that I need to continue on. I feel more positive, more energetic, more focused and determined. And I am slowly beginning to believe that I really can do it: I can change my life.