What if I told you that yoga and meditation may be the missing link between your ability to maximize your daily output — all while remaining positive and upbeat — and any feelings of fatigue or lethargy you still experience? If you’re skeptical, I completely understand. Up until somewhat recently, I was myself. Growing up in a household with my adoptive parents, like most young people, I was subject to their parental influence.
They impressed their beliefs on me, my biological siblings, and their two biological children. One such belief was that meditation and yoga are bad things, practices that were akin to voodoo and witchcraft. Through sedulous means, they did their due diligence to ensure that we were utterly terrified of these two practices.
Adoptive parents aside, religion was the other component that kept me from embracing meditation and yoga. The churches I went to, specifically the churches I attended while a resident of the state of Arkansas, were more old-school in nature in spite of attempts to modernize themselves. The leaders preached messages that still contained “fire and brimstone” elements, which never failed to overly convict the members of the congregation of their misdeeds, no matter how trivial. Of course I was included.
I don’t remember which church it was at, but one such message expressly forbade meditation and yoga, classifying them as dark arts and things to be avoided at all costs. In hindsight, I realize that those leaders were more charismatic than spiritual, exploiting their God-given skillset for personal — and usually pecuniary — purposes. More on this in subsequent articles.
All of this led to an overwhelming sense of discomfort when I was informed about how transformative both of these practices can be. How can these two art forms enrich my life if everything I’ve ever heard about them seems negative? I fought myself for months, vacillating between wanting to try them out and wanting to abstain completely. Then, one day, I asked myself a million-dollar question: “Would you be opposed to trying them if you hadn’t heard all the negative things you did?” My honest answer was no, so I decided to give them a go, but not without overcoming the last hurdle in my way — the infamous male ego.
Initially, in my eyes, there was nothing too off-putting about meditation, but there was little I could call manly about yoga. It struck me as dainty, something that should be enjoyed by men who are more effeminate than most, women, and/or those who don’t care for the opinions of others when it comes to their overall health and well-being. I wasn’t in any of those camps, though I now jovially consider myself part of that last group. At the onset, I was too concerned about losing part of my masculinity to forms of self-care that didn’t require me to use anything but my body weight, unorthodox postures, and my mind.
“There’s no way this can be good for my health” I’d often think, paralyzed by my ego every time I attempted to get in a quick introductory session. In reality, I was really allowing the words of others to affect how I perceived yoga and meditation. It took some time, but I eventually got over the hump, now living a life chalk-full of morning and evening weekend yoga sessions and meditation twice a day. What changed? Aside from my perceptions, I began to personally experience just how powerful both are individually and combined.
Meditation is essentially mental detox. It’s a way to clear the cobwebs out of your head. You free your mind from the smog that builds up over time, replacing it with a sense of clarity that ushers in genuine peace. Imagine New York City during rush hour on New Years’ Eve. Not an overly pleasant visual, I know (although this year that visual may be more pleasant. Who knows?). The plethora of people caught up in traffic is enough to create a mushroom cloud of smog above the city, usually in the infamous borough of Manhattan.
The smog rises up high above Manhattan into the sky, nestling itself in, around, and above clouds. Buses, cars, taxis, trains, trucks — all of them contribute to this. Now imagine that smog existing in your head. A weird thought, but humor me. Meditation is the antidote to this. It takes those ghastly smog quantities that exist and replaces them with fresh, breathable air, all by requiring you to breathe deeper while remaining in a relaxed state. Essentially, you breathe in the best while exhaling the stress. Sounds cheesy, but it truly is transformative — and one of the best ways to reset your mind. After a year like the one we’ve had, why not give mental detoxing a try?
Yoga is a lot like kneading dough before you bake it. Or Fufu, an African delicacy that is doughy in nature (and one of my favorite dishes). You have to get virtually every clump out to enjoy the meal to its fullest. Any clumps left, and you’re left with the equivalent of ill-prepared oatmeal. With yoga, your body is the dough, and the various movements you engage in are the rolling pin. With each stance, you condition your body to move in ways that aren’t typical while stretching yourself out and breathing deeply to improve blood flow — all while getting more oxygen to coarse throughout your system. Pain is to be expected doing some of the movements, especially at the onset of partaking in yoga, as there’s an adjustment period your body has to go through. But the pain is worth it in the end; like the old adage says — no pain, no gain.
Both have been immensely beneficial for me on a personal level. They play a key role in me remaining centered most of the time (because as much as I’d like to be able to say all the time, I’m far from perfect). I don’t give control to my emotions incessantly anymore. When I feel something, I don’t have to impulsively act it out. In essence, I can place a finger on a myriad of feelings without acting on all of them, all thanks to meditation and yoga.
Above all else, I feel more centered, like I’m a seesaw that’s spent years trying to achieve balance, battling between what’s good for me on one end and my ego on the other. All of this stems from consistently practicing yoga and meditating in the mornings and evenings. I highly advise you give these two art forms a try. You may walk away as addicted to how much better you feel as I am. And full disclosure, I’ve only been practicing for a few months. We’ll see where I am in a years’ time.
This post was originally published on Medium.
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