Not many associate exercise with spirituality unless one practices the martial arts or yoga. There seems to be a cultural disconnect between activities of the mind and the body. However, spirituality is really holistic, not cut off from the experience of life. The goal is to become a complete person. Exercise can literally be our lifelines because it is self-healing and grounding - generating positive energy. It helps us realize that we can exercise control over our lives.
Here is what exercise can do for you spiritually
Lifting weights will lift your spirits. You are strengthening your body to house your great spirit. You learn to live in the now because you have to focus on your workout and not your worries. You need good posture, presence and power. As you progress, you can quantify your accomplishments and this gives you faith in your own strength: Look what I can do! You mind your muscles like a moving meditation. I have observed clients going through a divorce or a job change increase their self-confidence through weight training. As they gained greater balance in their core training, they were able to transfer these skills to their emotional lives and get unstuck. They changed their dynamics, believing that they could, instead of wishing they could change the other person or their work environment.
Aerobics promotes heart health. A strong heart can handle grief, loss and disappointment which inevitably come your way. In fact, a regimen of aerobics is prescribed by many therapists to improve depression and anxiety instead of medication or in the case of a more severe depression, exercise and medication work in synergy. Therefore instead of escaping from sadness, run towards a more sustainable happiness.
Flexibility is achieved by stretching, teaching us to flow in life instead of hitting ourselves against a wall of frustration. In addition flexibility elongates who we are and gives us grace and a lightness of being. Flexibility exercises move you to be more flexible in your disagreements and conflicts. When a client tells me that he or she experiences tension or stiffness in the neck, I ask, “What are you being rigid or stubborn about?” Most of the time the response is: “How did you know?”
People who exercise regularly
- Have senses that are alive and alert. They are more receptive to little pleasures.
- Exercise the right to set aside time for the self.
- Know that sweat makes it all small stuff.
- Realize that happiness needs a sustained and continuous effort.
- Set aside a concrete time to excel.
- Stretch a bit more to grasp their dreams.
What happens during a workout teaches us a lot about ourselves. There is a vital connection between what we believe and how our body responds. To reap the mind/body/spirit benefits of exercise practice movements that matter. Have an intention for your workout. For example, if you are angry, your intention will be to squeeze the anger out of your body during your workout. If your goal is to learn patience, strapping on ankle weights will slow you down.
Make healthy living a priority. All your other activities depend on your health. When beneficial changes take place in the body because of exercise, the mindset is changing right along with the body.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com