You know that wonderful feeling you get when your yoga class begins? Your breath is slow and full, and you can feel the stress melt away as you center yourself on the mat, and bring your mind, body and spirit together for those 60, 75, or 90 minutes of “me” time. Well, did you know that you can get the same effects just by relaxing into a good book? It’s true! Some of the healthy benefits of yoga, such as reduced stress, more focus and concentration, a greater sense of connection (empathy), better sleep, as well as lowered blood pressure and general tranquility can be had just by spending a little “me” time with some of your favorite reads.
As a full-time English teacher and part-time yoga teacher, I rarely have time (okay, I rarely take the time) during the semester to indulge in pleasure reading. But with summer vacation upon us, I’m looking forward to closing the textbooks and instruction manuals for a while, using my breath to inflate my pool float, and holding a supine pose with my body, and an engaging story in my hands while soaking up the yogic rewards of simply practicing a little R & R (relishing and reading). After yoga practice, of course! 🙂 Here’s a short list of what I intend to absorb and how it will saturate me with yogic benefits.
F is for Funny & Fiction!
In this moving story about intentional living and how we make our life choices, you might laugh or cry; you might set a goal, or feel more whole. Whatever the temporary emotion, you’re sure to see the balance between humorous and serious throughout this thought-provoking novel. It will definitely get you thinking…about things you didn’t think about before, without seeming like the author wanted to make you think about them.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that as study participants were emotionally transported into fiction, their capacity for empathy increased. Similarly, in yoga, moments and movements in time become reflections, as you see yourself in others. When something happens in your life, you begin to realize your role in pulling it to you by the way you think, act, and set intentions. While this book is a so-called “romance” novel, it’s good to remember that love may not conquer all, but it certainly can aid in healing and dealing with the ridiculous and the reality of life. Likewise, a regular yoga practice helps develop friendliness, compassion, and greater equanimity. Along with yogic philosophy’s emphasis on avoiding harm to others, telling the truth, and taking only what you need, this may improve many of your relationships.
Accepting the Imperfect Warrior
I like to think of myself as a “recovering perfectionist”, and like many a Brené Brown book, this Melton book is said to remind us that it is much more powerful to focus on embracing an expansive, extraordinary messy life! This is a lesson that seems to evade me time and time again. Perfectionism is such a magnetic force that many of us (like me) are drawn and determined to personify this elusive and impossible characteristic in any and every way. Yet, this book is touted as a “funny, honest, forthright and completely open-hearted” perspective of self-acceptance. So, I’ll try it, even though the reviews tell me it may be a bit too “holy roller” & “momish” for my taste.
In terms of reading, we are clearly drawn to certain genres based on our personalities and the subsequent benefits we gain from each. For instance, as a self-improvement seeker steeped in educational traditions, I almost always reach for a non-fiction book. However, I have to admit that I am also curious, captivated by, and sometimes craving of a fiction tale to take me away from it all. Therefore, I must embrace and accept myself in each and every realm as I feel it. The same can be said for yoga. That is, I must practice self-acceptance and enjoyment and full expression in each posture, and accept the fact that at any given time, my hips may not be as open, or my hamstrings may not be as flexible as I wish them to be. I must have the courage to be curious and explore the diversity that is within me. It is only then that I can allow a pattern of a less-than-perfect practice, to learn from my mistakes, and to “carry on” as an ever-imperfect “warrior”!
As a member of the Mindfulness Revolution, I infuse all my classes with mindfulness activities that can help students to reduce their stress and increase their happiness. Most of the activities are based on my own experiences in yoga, which the students seem to enjoy. But when I came across this book, I knew it was something new, fresh and funny! For instance, he has hysterical chapter titles like, “The voice inside my head is an asshole”. 🙂 The fact that it is a true story makes it relatable, insightful and convincing. Not that I need to be persuaded to believe that being mindful can make you happier.
The research behind mindfulness and its ability to rewire our brains for stress resilience is extremely compelling. Not to mention it’s what I base my daily existence on. Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening in any given moment and paying attention to it without judgment. Just as in yoga, you must focus on one pose at a time, and just feel it in your body, keep practicing and not be concerned with how you look. In reading, you just concentrate on one page at a time, absorb the message, and keep turning the pages without any worry about how it will turn out. Maybe now, my students will see that “regular” people (like them) can increase their happiness, not only from practicing mindfulness, but also from just reading about it. All you have to do is start!
Speaking of starting…I’ve got the cooler packed, my pool float is inflated and my tote bag is bulging with books. It’s time to dive into summer reading! There’s plenty more books on my bedside table for the cool nights of air conditioned comfort. What’s making a splash on your summer reading list? Leave a comment and let me know.