How a Yoga Practice can Benefit You
Decrease your stress and increase your physical and emotional health.
I have a crazy idea. What if, instead of leaning in and saying "yes" to everything, what about going in the opposite direction. Lean out. Say no to what doesn't serve you so you can say yes to YOU, YOU and more YOU.
That's the thing about yes. Once you say yes to that extra project at work, yes to the volunteer commitment at school or yes to helping out a neighbor, you become the automatic go-to when a project needs to be done or when help is needed. If you've already achieved the pinnacle of work-life balance (with a healthy dose of me time), then dive right in and say yes. For the rest of us, it may serve us - not to mention our partners, families and communities better - if we step out (at least occasionally) instead of stepping in.
In this day and age we're expected to do more... more, more, more! We can stop the madness by saying no. When you're constantly striving to be the best version of yourself, every year you set the bar a little bit higher.
There’s the implication if I do more, if I keep striving to some unattainable goal, I will somehow be a better person. I firmly say no to that.
With an already packed schedule, saying yes to one thing means saying no to another. So if you’re saying yes to what’s-her-name’s party because you feel like she’ll hold it against you if you don’t go, what are you saying no to? Valuable time spent with your family? Precious time to rejuvenate your soul? Exquisite time to slow down and breathe? When you say no to the unnecessary, you can say yes to the people and moments that matter.
A few years ago, I read “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown. The author makes the point if one continues to say yes to everything without discernment, life begins to spiral out of control. Does that sound familiar?
My favorite concept, “if it’s not a clear yes, it’s a no," changed my life. To me, it made the process of discernment much simpler. Many times I've been asked to do this or help with that and my first thought was "maybe." That is definitely a no, because it's not a clear yes. A clear yes is something that makes your heart sing with joy! It made it easier to decipher what I was really excited to do and what I was doing out of obligation.
I realized I'd been saying yes for years. Yes out of obligation. Yes out of guilt. Yes because I was "expected to."
Sometimes we feel bad saying no, so we let things get out of control. Practice small nos, until you feel comfortable saying no to big things. No to "I can't go on a second date with you" is easier than no "I can't marry you."
The power of no is especially profound when you're already struggling to keep up. Say no to what drains your time, energy and resources; then say yes to what makes your heart sing. Say yes to you.
After You Say No - More Ways to Take Care of You (You'll have all that Extra Time!)
Sleep - Sleep is the best thing you can do for your immune system. Either go to bed earlier or stay in bed later. Your body needs plenty of rest to repair damages to tissues and your brain needs the rest. Deep sleep is keyto maintain optimal emotional and social functioning.
Read more: How Lack of Sleep Affects the Brain
Eat Three Meals a Day - Eat warming foods such as soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables. Drink warm liquids. Eliminate the ice in your beverages (ice cold drinks and foods make you feel cold!) Use spices such as cinnamon, cayenne and cumin. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Eat more vegetables. (Nina and I like to start our work days off with a breakfast full of veggies - a little arugula and cherry tomato salad next to sauteed veggies topped with poached eggs, and some avocado toast. All drizzled with a touch of olive oil. Yum!)
Read more: 40 Unexpected Ways to Add Veggies to a Meal
Take Time to Exercise - Take your dog for a walk, go to your gym or yoga studio, or take walking breaks at work - physical movement keeps blood circulating and increases body temperature and is key for physical, mental and emotional health. Start small - keep Pranaa (the Ayurvedic term for your body’s vital energy) flowing by incorporating short walks into your busy workday, picking a parking spot that’s further away or using the stairs instead of the elevator. Get creative and get moving!
Read more: When Everyday Activities Count as Exercise
Find Some Time to Be Alone - In order to get in tune with your physical, mental and emotional state it’s essential to take time to be with yourself. Start by setting aside 20 minutes (or 5 if that’s where you need to start) to unplug and reset your own operating system by turning off all your devices. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, find a quiet spot (maybe outside if the weather is nice or by a window if it's not - to allow yourself all of the benefits of the sunshine), and bring a journal if you like. Find something to fix your eyes on and let your mind go. Take note of the things that surprise you, scare you, or soothe you. Let yourself be - without judgement or expectation - and observe yourself. As you get more comfortable, increase the time and frequency of your alone time. Then, when you feel like you need it - take it.
Read more: Why You Can’t Stand to Be Alone -- And How to Learn to Love It
Once you realize how good it feels to eliminate the unnecessary and embrace what nourishes you, you’ll wonder what took you so long.