Live…Laugh...Love...Learn—finding your own “om”

Friday, October 20, 2017

De-stressing is hard for many of us to achieve. It is one of the cornerstones to living a healthy lifestyle. It is as equally important as eating right, building in exercise, getting the required sleep we need, and drinking enough water. Learning how to take our lives down a notch and unwind, at strategic times of the day, can actually add years to our lives. So how do we do it?

Many people we admire from celebrities to doctors espouse the benefits of yoga. Research shows us that those who make time to practice yoga improve their mood, lower their blood pressure, sleep better and are more likely to succeed in their weight loss/management. My middle son was the living proof I needed that yoga really does make a difference. In high school my son broke his pelvis because his bones were growing faster than his muscles could keep up (he is now 6ft 8in). When this happened our pediatrician asked him if he planned on playing sports again. Of course! He absolutely planned on playing ice hockey, running track, climbing mountains and joining the rugby team…you name it. Well the doctor then said if he did plan on continuing with sports he was going to have to incorporate yoga into his life to keep his muscles stretched and his core strong in order to avoid recurring problems. My son did learn and practice yoga throughout high school. He chose Bikram yoga because it required a special kind of endurance since you practice in a room that is kept extremely hot. In his mind it qualified as an extreme sport. It worked for him both physically and mentally. He was our most centered kid growing up. And he still practices today, finding Bikram yoga studios wherever he lives and travels.

It may be hard to go to a yoga class regularly but there are elements of yoga we can easily incorporate into out daily lives. One element we can easily practice as a discrete activity is stretching. Stretching our legs, calves, thighs, tendons, arms, neck and shoulders can be done at the beginning and end of the day as well as through out the day when we need a brief break. It can take as a little as a minute to do and can make you suddenly feel so much better.

Another element to practice is breathing. Taking deep breathes and then letting them out completely is incredibly effective for de-stressing. It can be done at any time and in any place, including meetings and when talking on the phone. It is something that is not distracting to do so it can be done anywhere and can help you in any situation. My favorite place to deep breath is in the car when driving from one meeting to another or to my workouts or grocery store. It is a great “unwinder” at the end of the day when I am headed home.

Then there is the benefit of mindfulness. Being present while doing yoga or any repetitive activity can help you let go of what is worrying you and help you focus on what you can control…like the steps you take, the breathing you are performing and the awareness of your environment that keeps you alert to all that surrounds you. It hones your skill to stay focused as well. I enjoy mindfulness mediation when I take my walks, which I wrote about in a previous blog.

My favorite recent practice is finding my own “Om” that I can use and repeat when I am having trouble letting go of negative thoughts or situations. Like many, I have memories and worries that keep replaying in my mind…over and over again. These become recurring loops that are a vicious cycle I have a hard time stopping and replacing with peaceful or at least constructive thoughts. The classic Om is a unique sound that you discover and is specific to you. It is a sound that you keep and use just for yourself when practicing yoga. The Om I use and now share is more about words that help us think better thoughts and shake the negative loops we find ourselves caught in. It too can be used at any time of day in any place since no sounds need be uttered or particular pose taken. I find it especially useful at night when I am trying to get to bed. When nothing else seems to work, I start repeating my Om. It does indeed help me break the negative loop and allows my mind to empty of the bad gunk to then fill with my good words and their positive meaning. What I repeat over and over again as my simple Om is: Live.Laugh.Love.Learn…it reminds me of what I hold dear, how I want to embrace the good parts of my life and what will help me achieve my goals. Really? All that with just 4 words? Yep, all that with my very own Om. Try it out and see how it fits and how it morphs to become your very own healthy lifestyle Om.

Yoga is both a spiritual and physical discipline that can help us in our daily lives. Elements of its practice can be used to help us manage the stress in our lives and add to our enjoyment of life. We lead complicated lives with plenty of challenges. Learning to leverage the good to help manage the not-so-good parts is incredibly important for the quality of our lives. For me it is all about remembering to live, laugh, love and learn. What is it all about for you?

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