By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper
A Yoked State of Body and Mind
The term “yoked” refers to the ability of two things to come together and complete an important task. When we think about the way our mind and body function to promote our wellbeing, we could think of them as being “yoked”. Our mind and body are joint and work as one; it is due to this state of connection that we are able to understand our own mental and physical sense of self, and become more grounded.
The tolls of daily life have negative effects on our mind-body connection, and the additional stress brought on by outward events, such as stress from work or homelife, only weaken this connection. This is because stress gets stuck in our bodies. When we become stressed, we carry that feeling around with us everywhere we go. That tension affects both our mind and body and can break down our mind-body connection. This breakdown can be detrimental for our wellbeing.
Because it is so common for this mind-body connection to be disrupted by everyday experiences, it’s important to have methods in place for reestablishing this connection. Activities that incorporate both movement and mindfulness are ideal for this purpose. Body-centered activities, such as breathing and movement exercises are great ways to release stress-induced tension. Utilizing mindfulness-based breathing and movement techniques can help put us in a relaxed state. The activities listed below can aid in regulating our internal states and in restoring our mind-body connection.
Deep Breathing Exercises:
“Take 10 deep breaths” is a common statement we’ve all heard during times of stress. Deep breathing exercises, or breathing meditation, are frequent recommendations for relaxation because they do not take much energy to perform and they aid greatly in promoting relaxation. Additionally, they help us become centered. To be centered is to be in a state where you channel and repurpose your nervous energy toward remaining stable in a stressful environment.
Breathing meditation incorporates both physical and mental approaches to promote relaxation and is very simple to perform.
Focus on your breathing and where you feel your breaths in your body. Using your abdomen, breathe in through your nose; your stomach should rise. Exhale through your mouth. While exhaling, contract your abdominal muscles. Focusing this way can help you feel centered. While doing this, visualize all of the negative energy you feel, and imagine yourself exhaling it out with every breath, pushing it all away from you.
Rhythmic movement is a form of meditation that can be very therapeutic. It focuses on using repetitive motions in different parts of your body to bring you into a state where your body can press a restart button and redirect your energy to focus on healing. This type of meditative movement activity is very grounding, or in other words, is very calming and emotionally stabilizing.
Rhythmic movement is good for both your physical and mental health and is easy to do.While in a comfortable and relaxed state, pay attention to your foot, and flex the muscles in your foot. Squeeze them tight and count to 10, then relax your foot. Focus on the feeling of tension leaving your foot as it becomes loose. Take that in for a moment as you breathe deeply and slowly, and then shift to the other foot. Following this same sequence of motions, move from your left foot upward and toward your body.
Yoga and Interoception
Perhaps the most well-known method of relaxation that relies on a coupled body and mind is yoga. Yoga combines deep breathing exercises with many different types of stationary and in-motion poses. Practicing yoga regularly provides many benefits for physical health (increased flexibility, balance, strength, etc.) as well mental health, such as reducing stress and anxiety. One of the primary goals of yoga is to improve overall wellbeing through practicing mindfulness.
Practicing yoga also has the benefit of increasing our “seventh sense,” interoception. Interoception is our ability to sense how we feel from the inside, which will inform the actions we take externally (for example, if you experience hunger internally, then externally, you will eat). This process is vital for our wellbeing and is in many ways dependent on a properly functioning mind-body connection – all the more reason to incorporate yoga into a regular routine.
In conclusion, a yoked or connected body and mind is vital for good mental and physical health. Stressful situations have the ability to disrupt this connection, which will have a negative impact on overall wellbeing. Utilizing some of the concepts and techniques discussed above can protect or repair our mind-body connection, ultimately promoting a peaceful state of being.