Prayer/affirmations help to focus the mind in calm, positive ways. That’s good because the next step in our daily spiritual practice (engaging the body), will take a bit of concentration.
The mind, body, and soul are each separate and at the same time, interwoven and overlapping. For example, I kneel at my altar to pray in exactly the same way every time. This is because the mind recognizes habitual bodily movements. As soon as I kneel, my mind begins to make the shift to prayer mode.
Your body is the home of your soul. As such, it makes sense that your soul will be happier when its home is in good shape. No, I won’t tell you about eating right and exercising. You already know all that. What I will do is try to connect your mind and your soul (the abstract), with your body (the physical).
This happens when we move our bodies in mindful, healthy ways. This will make more sense as we go along. What follows is my daily physical routine. Of course, it is only an example. Please find the movements and postures that work for you.
Before we start, let me introduce you to two terms. (Definitions according to Dictionary.com)
1. Yoga: a series of postures and breathing exercises practiced to achieve control of the body and mind.
2. Tai Chi: a Chinese martial art and form of stylized, meditative exercise, characterized by methodically slow circular and stretching movements and positions of bodily balance.
Although I could write a hundred pages here on the virtues and details of each one, let me give you a bite-size version.
Yoga is the use of specific breathing exercises in order to stretch the body and center the mind. It can be used as a catalyst for meditation, while some use it purely for the physical rewards of flexibility and strength training.
Tai Chi, on the other hand is more spiritual. This is a ritualized system of movements that pays attention to where the body is in space. Each movement (and the spaces between the movements) is mindfully done, grounded in the present moment and reassuring a sense of balance, both spiritually and physically.
What I do each day is a combination of these two ideas.
Here is a general list of postures and movements that I do.
(note: many people give up on yoga and similar practices because they can’t remember what to do next. The list below is not to be memorized; it is just something to start you thinking. Your body already knows what it needs. It just helps if your mind already has a basic plan.)
By the way, I am not a yogi, or a licensed anything. I am simply telling you what I do. If you are beginning a physical routine of any kind, begin slowly and carefully. Any safe movement, down consistently can have powerful effects over time. However, an injury, no matter how small, does not make for a good day.
Don’t forget to breathe! Also, only relax into a stretch on the exhale. Never force or bounce into a stretch!!!
1. Stand correctly. Spine straight. Shoulders relaxed. Arms at sides. Feet apart parallel to shoulders. Long, deep, cleansing breath.
2. Prayer pose
3. Mountain pose
4. Back to Prayer pose
5. High lunge (each leg)
6. Back to Prayer pose
7. Rag doll
8. Back to Prayer pose
9. Heel sit
10. Child pose
11. Upward dog
12. Downward dog
13. Corpse pose
Also, I LOVE this book: Yoga for your Spiritual Muscles by Rachel Shaeffer
I hold each pose until I am calm and my breathing is long and deep.
This portion of my daily spiritual practice is not about getting through a list. It is about tuning my body to a higher frequency.
There are two major principles at work here.
First, the movement to get from one posture to the next is not just to get from point A to point B. It is about being present in the moment and mindful of where my body is in space.
Secondly, each posture is a point of focus, and has its own lessons to teach me. For example, when I am standing, I think about my feet on a firm foundation or my legs that are strong and will carry me through my day. When a pose feels uncomfortable or off balance, I stay with it and continue my breathing until I can relax into it. This teaches me that, in the real world, when something feels awkward or uncomfortable, I have the ability to just breathe and be patient. I have the inner strength to get through anything.
By the end of my physical routine (which takes about 15 minutes), I feel amazing. I am centered and mindful. My senses are alive. Every cell in my body is buzzing, fed by all that oxygen-rich blood. I feel powerful, strong, and calm.
This is the perfect place to be as I step into the final phase of my daily spiritual practice—connection to Spirit.
See you next time.
Love you all!