You know that stiff, deep burning kind of pain you feel when you wake up the day after a new or challenging workout? The kind of satisfying ache of muscle soreness that sets in a day or maybe two after an event or workout? For many of us, that permission slip to slow down is welcomed. It serves as a validating reminder of the hard work we have put in and the progress we have made. The pain caused by tiny micro tears in our muscles will rebuild during rest, leading to increased strength and endurance. While many who live active lifestyles or seek to take their athletic performance to the next level know the necessity of proper rest to avoid injury and burnout, it seems we lack the same respect for our minds. Let’s admit, that sometime taking the time to rest and slow down is hard!
Just like a grueling work out or spin class breaks down our physical bodies, our daily stress at work, or school, our tension, fear, anger, sadness, anxiety and self-doubt break down our mental states, Slowly chipping away and keeping our minds busy and active as we ruminate on past or future events. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I first started running a few years back was from a wonderful coach who reminded me, “You can either respect your body voluntarily, or it will shut down on you involuntarily.” Well, a knee surgery and spinal fusion later, I think I finally figured out what he meant!
And in my process of recovery, I have come to learn that the same concept holds true for our minds. Without proper rest, recovery and rejuvenation, the mind will give out – leaving us feeling frazzled, exhausted, stuck, overwhelmed, depleted – unable to show up and perform at our best. In this state, our creativity and clarity suffers, depression may set in, we are merely going through the motions of life. Without taking the time to let the mind rest, return to a state of calmness, it will eventually give out, leaving us burnt out and stuck in a negative cycle of thoughts.
Many competitive, driven and active people work their bodies, and hopefully allow for at least one day of rest – but how often do we take the time to give our minds that same care? It took me a long time, several injuries and health issues to realize that my physical ailments were just a manifestation of my mental state. Recovering my sport injuries took longer and had more complications when I was over stressed. I found the best recipe for optimal performance was checking in and cultivatinga positive mental state.
Through yoga and meditation and focused breathing I found my body able to heal quickly, easily, with less pain, and without complications. Less than 6 months after a spinal fusion, I am back in full swing, running, biking, lifting (lighter weights of course), and finding full backbends and yoga poses I had never done before. I attribute all of this to my daily meditation and restorative yoga practice. While I am not a perfect human, I live with so much more joy, peace, stillness and success in daily effort. I sleep soundly, and give myself permission to rest and recover. I used to feel that if I was not working every second of every day I was falling behind. I found myself physically tired and less productive.
When I finally took the time to slow down, I was able to speed up. Mastering the science and art of living in a state of flow takes constant practice, but I have found that no matter what the goal, making the time to breathe and repair the mind and body leads to the highest level of performance, with what seems like no effort at all. Mind the micro tears of the mind, take time to breath, reconnect with the present moment, focus on all the good around you and you will find you are able to get into your state of flow faster and more often. You will find yourself feeling energized and light. You will find a new sense of IN-Power!
Breath in and Love You Now!