Ah, the New Year. A chance for new beginnings at the drop of a calendar page. New Year’s resolutions may fizzle after a few months; unrequited intentions seem to be a part of human nature. But many resolutions are indeed fulfilled, at least enough so to launch a new direction. Changes toward a healthier lifestyle are often in the mix. How does your current reality differ from your greatest vision for yourself? What steps could get the reality closer to the vision?
Some of our area’s health practitioners told us what comes to mind as their top tips to escort you to wellness, not just at the turn of a year, but anytime.
Exercising Will and Power
Dr. David Ness, a leading sports chiropractor based in New Paltz, treats a lot of the area’s top elite runners and triathletes. He recommends that you “have a vision and a plan for how you want to feel physically, mentally, and spiritually. Write it down. Read it daily, visualize it, and take action.” As an expert in physical fitness, he says that scheduling exercise into your weekly routine is key. “Some how, some way, exercise three to five times per week, for 30 to 60 minutes, minimum.”
To help keep up a commitment to the schedule, especially if it’s new to your routine, Ness advises, “Set specific days and times to do your favorite routine. Be it yoga, Pilates, tai chi, running, biking, or going to the gym to work out. Do it on set days for set times. Vary the types of exercise you do to help build a balanced body. Alternate between strength training days and aerobic training days. If you are the type of person who cannot self motivate, pay someone to motivate you!” This could mean investing in a personal trainer or coach, Ness says, or ordering a few yoga, Pilates, or other exercise DVDs to do at home. “The same rules apply, though. You must set specific days and times to do your routine, and stick with it.”
Ness also emphasizes the importance of taking time to rest and recover. “If you have to be in one posture or position for a long time, try to find the time to use the opposite muscles and body position to balance the body out. Doing this will help you avoid overuse and repetitive strain injuries related to sports, work, musical instruments, and hobbies.”
Speaking of Yoga
Yoga continues to be a very popular exercise avenue. But it’s much more. “Yoga is for everyone,” says Debi DiPeso Medeski, director of Bliss Yoga Center in Woodstock. “That is one thing I love about it. There are many reasons why one should start or maintain a regular yoga practice. On a physical level, yoga brings increased stamina, flexibility, and healthy bones and joints. On a psychological level, yoga can improve concentration, lift your mood, and heighten your attention span. And then there are biochemical benefits such as decreases in cholesterol and blood pressure.”
But yoga’s advantages go beyond those realms, she adds. “It is a way of connecting to our life force through our breath, and to our spirit through meditation. Yoga means union—to yoke or unite. I believe we are all looking for the union between our selves, each other, and the natural world around us. Conscious community is essential in this day and age—there is a big shift in human evolution coming, and we can prepare ourselves for it with a steady and dedicated spiritual practice. We are in a time where it is important to stay grounded to the earth, to increase our capability to hear what it needs, to be aware of our actions and to learn how to move with gentleness and grace. Yoga teaches all of this. We have much work to do in our lives. It is why we are here—to grow and to become more aware beings. Ram Dass once said that the most important thing that I can do for you is to work on myself, and the most important thing you can do for me is to work on yourself. Practicing yoga in any or all of its forms is one of the best things we can do for ourselves, for each other, and for our mother earth.”
DiPeso Medeski gives these tips to starting a yoga practice. Check out a few studios in your area and make sure that you connect to the space, the teachers, and the students. Start with a beginner class, and then buy a class card package, which gives you several sessions for the up-front price. “That ensures a commitment so you’ll stick with it.” Once you’ve started, be patient with yourself. Allow for the teachings and enjoyment of yoga to work its magic gradually and peacefully. “Learn to let whatever comes up rise to the surface, and practice observing. You will soon see old patterns fall away as you create more inner space for new possibilities to arise. Tapping into your highest potential can be scary and exciting, so just enjoy the ride.”