Given the stress of life these days, if one can get healthier, and happier and stronger in all areas of oneself at the same time, it seems like a very good idea.
Since so many of our other investments have turned to dust, perhaps now is the time to invest in our own self-development — body, mind, spirit. Any effort in this direction will help give us the clarity, energy, and health we need to adapt to change, to respond to new opportunities, and to have courage in the face of challenges.
Here are 6 tips to stay motivated in your fitness goals while reducing stress and achieving balance during stressful times:
Not All Yoga is Created Equal: To get the maximum benefit from your yoga practice, look for a yoga style that calls itself “spiritual” or “inward awakening” or “meditative.” This is especially good if you are a beginner at yoga, or out of shape physically, because you can get benefit from this kind of yoga practice even if you can only bend in the general direction of the postures! The yoga postures are not arbitrary positions but are an expression of inner states of consciousness. Any effort to move in the general direction of a yoga posture, also moves mind and spirit in that same direction of useful attributes like happiness, calmness, contentment, or courage. Ananda Yoga is a gentle approach, suitable for all ages and physical conditions — including young, strong, and supple — with an emphasis on inner attunement, and building even physical strength from that inner core. If you can find a yoga style that includes some meditation, that will have the most overall benefit.
Pay Attention to the Long Rhythm: When asked once how to measure spiritual progress, the Dalai Lama said “Never think in terms of anything less than a decade. Who were you 10 years ago? Who are you now?” True change comes slowly. A human being is not a fixed reality, but a flow of energy. By the time you can measure something about yourself, it is, by definition, already behind you. The truest measure of who you are is where you are going. Your aspirations define your future. Your aspirations are who you are.
Keep the faith. It isn’t a question of what actions you commit, it is about what actions you are committed to. Even if you don’t — fill in the blank: meditate, eat healthy, act kindly, stay cheerful — every day, until it is something you do regularly. Even if that regularly is only once a week, or once a month, it is still who you are, and who you will become more and more.
Be of good cheer: Positive magnetism brings positive results. No matter how often you fall down, don’t ever think of yourself as a failure. Say rather, “I haven’t yet succeeded.”
Be honest with yourself: Don’t hide from the truth, rather include the whole truth. Perhaps, right now, you are not living up to your full potential. But all the power of the Infinite dwells within you. You are pure energy, pure joy. Success is guaranteed. It is only a matter of when. In the meantime, enjoy the ride. Sometimes in order to reach the base of the mountain for the final upward climb, you have to cross many hills and valleys. Keep your heart focused on the goal. You are pure Cosmic Energy and sooner or later you will figure out how to use that energy for your everlasting happiness and success.
Think directionally: In any situation, there is the best and the worst that you could do. If you can’t do the best (even the law of averages says no one can their best every time), then at least try not to do your worst. If it is a matter of exercise, even if you can’t walk the five miles you planned, go once around the block. If it is a matter of diet, and you know you might eat the whole box of chocolates, quickly pour five of them down the garbage disposal and turn it on. Then even if you finish all the rest, at least you didn’t eat those five! If it is a spiritual matter, and your one-hour of meditation has been frittered away to five minutes, then seize those five minutes and pray with all your heart for God’s grace to descend.
You’ll be amazed, if you just don’t do your worst, how much positive change will come! It doesn’t matter how fast you are moving toward your goal. It doesn’t even matter if you are treading water or not moving at all. The only thing that matters is that you don’t give up, and keep facing the right direction so when you finally do start moving you’ll be heading where you want to go.
Asha Praver is a lecturer, teacher, counselor, Spiritual Co-Director (with husband, David) of the Ananda Palo Alto Community, and author of Swami Kriyananda as We Have Known Him. Asha has been trained in yoga, meditation, and spiritual living by Swami Kriyananda, who was a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda. Since 1969 Asha has been a disciple, a meditator, and an intentional community member. To learn more about the Ananda communities and teachings, visit the Ananda Palo Alto website at www.anandapaloalto.org. To learn more about Asha’s book, please visit www.aswehaveknownhim.org.