Why Walk? Well, it’s good for body and mind

I love walking in my neighbourhood at this time of year. It’s early summer here in South Africa, and the city and surrounds of Johannesburg is a fabulous display of trees, shrubs and vines in flower and fruit, notably the Bougainvillea and Jacaranda trees which light up the horizon as you look to the distance. The best time to be out walking now is early morning- things start heating up from about 8.30, so I go out well before then for a fast walk, usually with my hand-held 1kg dumb-bells. I’m usually out for a half hour maximum, depending on which route I take. I don’t always walk daily; it depends on what else is lined up for the day, but I know that for me to feel ok, I need to move and to feel mobile and to know that blood is circulating freely through my limbs and organs! Luckily, I have plenty of tricks and tools of the “fitness trade” that I’ve collected over the years. I practiced and taught Hatha Yoga and Pilates, one-on-one and group classes, for about fifteen years, and the things I’ve learned through direct experience and much repetition over the years have not left me in a hurry. I know how to pack a lot into just ten minutes of exercise a day, such as with a few simple pilates moves, or a few rounds of Surya Namaskar aka Sun Salutations. And dance! The radio station I listen to on Friday mornings plays a non-stop routine of fifteen minutes of dance music if I feel like a change.

This post was partly prompted by Brian here, where he talks about his efforts and challenges in returning to exercise and a healthy eating plan. Here are three small suggestions I can make for others in his situation, especially the over-50’s:

  • If you’re not sure what’s right for you at your age and stage of life and health, talk to your GP or to a professional in the health and fitness field, preferably someone who has worked with individual needs on a one-to-one basis.
  • a little every day or second day is far better than trying to burn up the track once a week.
  • Weight-bearing exercises benefit the muscles, bones, and joints. Try including some of these in your exercise regime or build them in along with regular walks. Take advice on things like squats and lunges (many benefits to be had here!), especially if you are overweight or have knee troubles.   

Meantime, please enjoy some of the photos I took while walking in my neighbourhood yesterday. On this occasion I left my weights behind and took my phone along so that I could snap up some of the local scenery. The Jacarandas will have dropped all their blossom within the next few weeks, and I didn’t want to risk missing that window of opportunity. Sometimes you have to strike while the oven is (still) hot ;).

Photo of Feet Walking: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com.

All other pics by me (Amanda) on my modest Samsung J7 phone camera….

Pause to Reflect: 5 beautiful thoughts for the later months of 2022

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In my garden: Purple Iris

I originally intended this post for January this year. I thought it was a nice way to get things started for 2022: some inspired wisdom following a year of unprecedented challenges on a world wide scale. A new year, especially when it follows a particularly difficult one, holds a promise of renewal and a fresh start, and we look forward with a sense of hope for better things to come. We look to embrace the possibilities ahead, and we feel the urge to move forward to dream bigger, do better and be better.

Fast forward to the last week of August 2022 and I find that much has happened since that fresh first month of January, and also that I never got round to publishing this post. It occurred to me that right now, now that the year has lost its youthful sheen, may be a good time for us to check in with ourselves. It’s fair to say that inspiration never goes out of date, and words that seem wise and uplifting are as relevant in August as they are in January. The later stage of a year is where we may well be needing a dose of that positivity that we started the year with. Even if we have done well with the New Year’s resolutions and goals we may have created for the year, life presents ongoing challenges and as we find our coping mechanisms being continually stretched, we may feel those frustrations and disappointments piling up. And that’s when we need to step back, take a breath (in AND out) and pause for some perspective and the energy to motivate ourselves going forward.

The following are not necessarily intended as maxims or mottos for life, although indeed they could be. These are all quotes taken from different sources: websites and blog posts, a newspaper article and an encyclopaedia entry. These are writings to reflect upon: Inspired and thoughtful words from the wise hearts and minds of humans past and present who, like you and me, no doubt had their good days and bad, and times where they had to dig deep just to get through the day. For me, each of these is a beautiful observation that makes the world a richer place and speaks of our ongoing human search for meaning, and our need to feel at home in ourselves and the world that we are a part of.

1.“The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” (St Francis of Assisi). Beautifully explained in this post.

2. ““There exists a deep ecological tradition in Vedic culture by which human settlement, forests and water resources are carefully balanced. To achieve that balance, nature’s welfare and human welfare cannot be separated each other.”   Terry Sheldon explains the Vedic ecology at the core of the Small Farm Training Centre, in an article from the Huffington Post.

3. “Really, to have a life of doing you need to not do.” (Will Rosenzweig on the Tao). Read about the four levels of non-doing, and how it may sometimes be necessary to be detached from things that you care deeply about.

4. “Animals move; people can learn about movement from animals. House pets stretch all day long, creating space in their joints. Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Monkeys and apes do things with their hands. Perhaps as humans we need to reclaim our four- leggedness. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow. Sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Animals don’t sit on furniture; they have not built things contrary to their nature.”  (Denise Kaufman) from the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Nature

5.”Whats in your cup? ….When life gets tough, what spills over for you?” and “The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step” from ZEN FLASH

Simple meditation: no yoga mat required

 

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In my garden: Granadilla fruit and flower

Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.

In his book YOGA (6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”  

 

Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.

So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?

I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows: Continue reading