Don’t look for a miracle - be one. First step: stand tall.
Value what you can do,” I constantly stress in my exercise class. Yes, indeed, value your flexibility, which allows you to bend and turn with such ease. Value your stamina, which allows you to do several reps without tiring.
When you value your ability to exercise, you work out with a sense of sweetness — it then purifies your life and adds clarity and depth to your vision. When you marvel at your capability to exercise, you ensure you are regular, disciplined, and thus bring vigour to your limbs, a purpose to your spirit, and power to your actions.
Use exercise constructively; simultaneously, match it with a positive, uplifting mental attitude. If you stoop, do the Tree Stride.
Stand at the end of your yoga mat. Tilt your chin, clasp your hands behind your back, square your shoulders and think boldly, “What is there to fear? I have nothing to fear!” Take two deep breaths, draw your stomach in and think, “I am a living and vibrant spirit!” Now, with this beautifully erect, fearless posture, stomach tight, take one long-ish stride, then another, one more, then bring the feet together. You’ve covered the length of your mat. Holding the same posture, take one long-ish stride back, then another, one more, and bring your feet together. Do this exercise three times.
When you do this exercise, you balance all that is imbalanced in you. You raise your consciousness just like you’d raise your gaze. You become aware of a higher, stronger power in you. You throw away your littleness. You feel exalted and uplifted. How so? In this body posture, in this purposeful action, the mind severs itself from its faltering stance.
If you have a doubt about whether it works, just try it out. Do it wholeheartedly and experience it yourself. If you’re still a bit doubtful, let my faith kindle yours. It has been my experience that personal ambition is a relentless tyrant that beats and buffets you until you stoop under all that terrific pressure. Not so with faith. Faith in the self, faith in the universal laws, faith in the truth that we are here to lead the best, most humane life possible, faith in the fact that clouds and mists can never rob the radiance of the sun… such faith raises the spirit and gives it a wonderful steadfastness. The mind calms. The heart fills with gladness. And the mental stoop straightens.
Work gently on your physiological stoop throughout the day like a loving parent watching over a child. Pepper your day with different straightening stretches and measures:
Do the Tree Stride at least thrice a day.
Stand comfortably, raise your hands to the ceiling, arch slightly backwards. Hold for 10 seconds while affirming, “I am the child of Eternity. I am free! I am free!” This exercise stretches your lower back. Do it a few times until you feel stretched and fresh.
Lie on your back. Lift both legs off the mat, and bend your knees towards your chest. Place forearms, palms up, on either side of your head. This helps press your shoulders to the floor. Keeping the right knee pressed to your chest, extend the left knee straight out. Then, keeping your left knee pressed to your chest, extend the right knee straight out. It’s like a slow-motion cycling action. All along, press your back flat on the floor. This exercise trains the back to be straight and square and strengthens the abdominal and thigh muscles, which are key to a good posture.
If you sit a lot, whether at a desk job or watching TV, take frequent breaks to place both arms behind over the back of the chair and clasping both hands. This gives a good stretch to the shoulders.
Position the monitor so that the top of the screen is level with your eyes. Whenever you’re reading something on the monitor, read in a relaxed position — bend your elbows and clasp your hands together behind your head and lean a little backward. This opens out the chest and solar plexus area.
While sitting on a chair, place a small cushion at your lower back to keep it straight and a flattish cushion below your thighs to keep your knees on a horizontal plane where they cannot point down and pull on your thighs.
Every day, make time to walk, cycle or swim. It is important to ensure that more oxygen gets into the blood and is then ferried to all parts of the body, especially the spine. These cardiovascular exercises do just that. They also help expel toxic carbon dioxide from the lungs, giving greater mental freshness and clarity. Even more gratifying is the better lymph flow, which eliminates the body’s toxic wastes.
I also strongly recommend reading several inspirational quotes, short prayers and spiritual poems daily. Lofty, loving thoughts written by evolved saints feed and nourish the mind while stirring our own higher soul impulses. Do everything to celebrate your spirit. Don’t look for a miracle to dispense negativity — be the miracle.
The writer is co-author of the book Fitness for Life.