Yoga for mental fitness is a powerful brain-training experience that combines the practice of yoga asanas (postures), breathing techniques, and hand mudras to develop a heightened awareness of the present moment combined with mental fitness to train the mind to focus on desired experiences and outcomes, create balance between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, reduce the hormones of stress, access slower brainwave states, and create new neural pathways.
In the 1960’s yoga was only practiced by the hippy counterculture movement in the United States, but now it’s a mainstream practice that is offered almost everywhere nowadays: studios, gyms, recreation centers, churches, business offices, parks, breweries, online videos, etc. With all of these new locations to practice yoga, the marketing to attract people from all walks of life has caused the rise of new adaptations and styles. As the cast of net expands way beyond the typical ‘hippy’, nowadays the practice includes all bodies, ages, disorders, diseases, groups, disabilities, animals (that’s another blog post all together) and focuses.
Yoga is said to be about 5,000 years old and even some scholars project that there is evidence to date back 10,000 years ago. Now 5,000-10,000 years ago, yogis weren’t standing on their heads. The practice of the yoga asanas (the physical postures that we see in gyms and studios today) has only been created about 300 years ago.
Ancient yoga from India is a spiritual practice designed to develop the mind and spirituality of the practitioner to the highest levels of enlightenment through dedication and practice. This true form of yoga is not the typical yoga that is commonly practiced in the United States and for this blog post, I’ll be focusing on Yoga for Mental Fitness.
The word yoga itself means ‘to yoke’ ‘to come into union’ and when I talk about Yoga for Mental Fitness, I’m talking about the union (connection) of mind and body to enhance mental well-being. When we live our days by the hormones of stress, we spend most of our waking hours experiencing life through the distorted reality of fear, anxiety, anger, control, sadness, guilt, etc. These survival emotions cause us to feel disconnected from ourselves and keep our minds focused on the worst possible outcomes (what we don’t’ want to happen in our lives). These survival emotions are catastrophic in every level of our lives.
Stop for a moment… Digest the previous paragraph and ask yourself this, if I’m living every waking hour of my adult life in fear, anxiety, control, etc., how do I respond and react to life’s experiences?
This question is meant for you to question how you are living and responding to life.
Whether we are consciously aware of ourselves or not, we are training our brains each day to respond and react to life. The more we live our lives from these survival emotions, the more we solidify neural highways in our brains of victimization and tyranny. According to Neuroscience and Neuroplasticity, we don’t have to be victimized by these old habits and behaviors anymore. We can consciously train our brains through many modalities, neurofeedback, meditation, biofeedback, mental fitness, yoga etc. to create new neural connections.
The practice of yoga brings us into a state of connection. “Yoga is both a state of connection and a body of techniques that allow us to connect to anything. Conscious connection to something allows us to feel and experience that thing, person, or experience. The experience of connection is a state of yoga, a joyful and blissful, fulfilling experience.”
The practice of yoga teaches us to unite our mind and body to connect with our internal world. Our brainwaves slow down and we remove ourselves from the external world and our survival emotions. Over time we are better able to develop awareness into our internal world where all the magic of connection and positive emotions of love, joy, peace, and gratitude live.
Yoga for Mental Fitness is a practice designed for the Mental Edge Fitness Solutions model to harness the powerful mind body connection of yoga with mental fitness training to optimize our minds.
According to Psychology Today ‘ There are 3 components to Psychological & Emotional Fitness: affirmations, visualizations, and relaxation.’
Affirmations & Yoga for Mental Fitness
Affirmations are our thoughts in the form of inner self talk. Whether we realize it or not, we are always affirming beliefs about ourselves and the world around us through our inner self-talk. Depending on many factors, our self-talk is either positive, negative, or a combination of both. We have about 60,000 – 70,000 thoughts each day. Each day our thoughts are about 95% the same as the day before. “Our inner self-talk recruits our dominant cerebral hemisphere (the so called: ‘left brain’ in most right handed people; and the so called: ‘right brain’ in most left-handed people). These affirmations (messages) strengthen neural pathways in our brains and when solidified can either contribute to our low self-esteem or high self-esteem.”
If you are not sure if your self-talk is negative or positive, look at your life. Are you living the life you want to live? Are you flourishing and exceling in life, idling, or declining in health, romance, relationships and/or finances/career? Our outer world circumstances reflect our degree of mental fitness. Basically, if we are constantly feeding our brain messages that we are capable and adequate for anything that life presents to us than our mental stamina and resiliency to stress will be heightened. We will be more eager to attempt new challenges and be more willing to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.
On the other side if our self-talk leans towards the negative and we continue to feed ourselves messages of negativity that we are not good enough and we don’t deserve to have positive experiences than we will be less willing to try something new or just give up during the process because we surrendered to the belief that we are not good enough. We have an ingrained belief/neural pathway that the effort is just not worth it because we don’t believe we deserve any positive experiences to come our way.
I’ve heard many criticisms over the years about affirmations and how they don’t work. It’s true if we repeat to ourselves with an emotion of disbelief that ‘we are a success’ and really don’t believe it than we are wasting our time. An affirmation must be said through self-talk, but also must be felt through the body with an emotion and posture that matches the affirmation we are trying to create. Hence, the blog post on Yoga for Mental Fitness.
Visualizations & Yoga For Mental Fitness
Visualizations are powerful mental fitness techniques to assist us in many ways. For example, guided imagery is a powerful tool that helps us to relax and guides us through a particular fear to visualize ourselves conquering that fear and rising to the challenge. It helps to ease apprehensions and builds positive neural pathways so we can do our best regardless of the outcome.
Visualization techniques have also been used to assist in conquering diseases with or without conventional treatment options, alleviate nervousness for surgical procedures, improving relationships by visualizing interactions with people in a more healthful, positive way, etc.
Just taking the time to visualize us happy, vital and flourishing has positive impacts in our lives and on our brains. The more we think it; the more the mind and body work together to create it as a reality.
Relaxation & Yoga for Mental Fitness
Relaxation is probably one of the most underrated aspects to living a meaningful life. We have sayings in our culture, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ or ‘relaxation is for the weak’, but this is seriously further from the truth. The brain needs relaxation in order to access a calm, focused mind. Without relaxation, we live our lives by the survival emotions. It’s no wonder why insomnia and sleepless nights are running rapid in our culture. We must learn how to toggle between brainwave states to access the right one for each activity. Relaxation is absolutely essential for mental fitness and is actually the best time to harness the power of visualization techniques and affirmations.
Yoga For Mental Fitness
Yoga for Mental Fitness combines the best of both worlds. Yoga already is a practice of relaxation, connection, and mindfulness. The practice moves us into a mental state where our minds have slowed down enough to realize our damaging self-talk, behaviors, and postures. It’s from this awareness where we are able to precisely incorporate brain optimization techniques to train our minds to focus on what we want to create more of in our lives. We are doing more than just thinking it, we are recruiting our bodies and emotions into the messaging to create powerful new mind-body connections and new neural pathways that support our vitality and well-being!
Join us for our upcoming Yoga for Mental Fitness workshop and enhance your mental fitness.
Written by Chelisa Alavedra for Mental Edge Fitness Solutions, INC. in Moorseville, NC.