In our modern yoga practice, we work with meditation, breathwork, and asana to unite our minds and bodies. As we become more in tune with our practice, it becomes clear that our bodies are a conduit for everything else: the soul, the thoughts, the breath, and the subtle movements within. We begin to realize that the better we physically treat our bodies, the better we feel. We feel sharper intellectually. We are more compassionate, and able to act with deeper love. We are stronger and faster, lighter on our feet, able to play with our children, and more likely to enjoy our lives.
When we deny our vessel or treat it poorly, we suffer. Our minds aren’t as quick. Our tempers may flare and our hearts are less generous. Physically, we may feel more tired and weak. From this place, we can’t give anything to others, or even to ourselves. We are tired and spent. Just as we can’t pour water from an empty cup, we can’t serve from an exhausted vessel.
A Prescription for Holistic Health
As such, what we put into our bodies matters. What we eat, how we move, and how we engage with the world around us directly affects how we are able to perform intellectually, emotionally, and physically. When we are taking good care of our vessel, it shows: We are able to manifest the lives that we want, we feel good, and we treat ourselves and others with compassion and respect.
It’s simple, really.
Eating healthy foods makes us feel happier, may help lessen symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and helps us sleep better at night (goodbye under-eye bags and tired mornings!). Our lives become richer and more purposeful as we consume foods that are whole, fresh, and nourishing. Research even shows that making good food choices sets us up to succeed in other areas of life, like school and work. Again, it’s simple. Imagine trying to start a fire with wet wood, or what happens when there’s water-tainted gasoline in your car’s tank. On the other hand, when we use dry wood and good fuel, the fire ignites and the car runs smoothly. The same is true for our bodies. If we put good stuff in, we get good results.
Moving our bodies is just as imperative as what we put into them. Exercise can increase serotonin—the happy chemical—in our brain, and has been shown to help ease symptoms of depression. Exercise can also boost creativity, increase our lifespans, and add enthusiasm, fun, and richness to those added years. When we feel happy and healthy, we’re able to manifest this happiness outward. This results in a deeper capacity for empathy and compassion.
Why Self-Care Matters
Taking care of our bodies by choosing a healthy diet and exercise is a practice in self-love. Self-love is an important layer of the yogic path because we simply can’t share love outward if we do not first know how to love ourselves. When we practice self-love we’re reminding our body—the home for our soul—that it’s sacred.
“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Think of all your your body does for you. This is the vessel that powers us through practice, carries us through family gatherings, guides us through giggle fits with best friends, and supports us through difficult and challenging times. It comforts our children, gives our partners a reassuring hug after a long day, and supports us in that handstand that we’ve been working on—breath, spirit, body-connected. It’s the conduit for our soul that carries us through the years. To care for it is an honor and a privilege.
We only get one. Treat it right.