Tuning in to Ourselves: The Importance of the Mind-Body Connection
Picture this: you’re walking down the street to work, the gym, or the grocery store. You may be staring at your phone, or simply just lost in your thoughts. Next thing you know – boom – you’ve arrived at your destination, and don’t even remember getting there! Sound familiar? This is a common scenario for many people, especially us busy New Yorkers. Our minds are so out of touch with our bodies that we’re a million miles away, and not aware of how we’re feeling, or that we’re putting one foot in front of the other. This disconnect can lead to problems, in terms of safety if you’re not watching where you’re going, and also simply in terms with letting your days flash by without taking in the feelings, sites, and sounds all around you!
By taking even a few moments out of each day to breathe and check in with our bodies, we can deepen our mind-body connections, and in turn become more focused, relaxed, and aware. The practice of yoga relies heavily on the connection between body and mind. Essentially all poses work on this to some effect, but if you’re new to the practice there are some especially helpful exercises that can build this connection.
Throughout yoga, especially at the beginning of your practice, it’s important to get in sync with your breath. Ujjayi is a balancing and calming breath, that’s perfect for any time you need to relax, focus, and renew your energy. This breath allows for fuller, deeper breaths, and feeds our muscles with extra oxygen. Start sitting comfortably in your chair, and place your hand on your knees, with palms facing up and thumbs and forefingers joined. Inhale a deep breath through your nose, and exhale a silent “ha” sound through your mouth. Repeat two times. Next, try “ha” on both inhalation and exhalation, with your mouth closed the entire time. Do this by closing off the back of the throat.
Meditation is another integral part of yoga that helps to connect with your body. The great thing about mediation is that there are so many different types you can do while sitting. One of my favorite poses is the Lake Meditation. To start, sit with your spine straight, and start to observe your breath. Imagine your mind is a mountain lake. Thoughts are like stones being thrown in the water, creating ripples and bringing up sediment from the bottom of the lake. Imagine placing the stones on the bank and letting the ripples cease. Eventually, the water becomes clear and so does the mind.
Try these moves at least one every day to rebuild the connection between your body and mind. You can hold them as long or as short as needed, even the quickest check-in helps! More breathing and meditation exercises, along with traditional yoga moves that work to deepen your mind-body relationship, can be found in Chair Yoga, available for purchase here.
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is the star of over 100 videos, a contributing editor at Health Magazine and a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. Kristin also appears frequently on television. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!