Throughout my health & fitness journey, I’ve come to believe in the importance of the mind-body connection.
This epiphany happened several years ago while I was deeply engrossed in a restorative yoga session, which resulted in me crying while doing certain poses (that triggered my deeper emotions about painful experiences I had years prior). For nearly a decade, I suffered from lower back problems, which led to seeing multiple chiropractors on a regular basis and even a physical therapist. This condition persisted throughout most of my 20s and even into my early 30s, which was even more perplexing since I never had any major trauma and was overall very healthy and fit.
While I was diligently working on addressing the physical issues, what I hadn’t fully realized was that I was essentially “storing” emotional baggage in this part of my body. While some skeptics might say that there’s no truth to this, I’ve personally come to believe that the mind-body connection is truly valid.
A perfect example of this is when we get sick. Often times, as a result of being stressed, our bodies can become unwell. Mental stress is known to affect our immune system, which in turn, can lead to us being more receptive to catching a common cold. I’d say every time I got sick was during a period where I felt especially stressed or negative, and I view it as my body’s way of saying “Relax, lady! Use this downtime to self-care and self-love right now.”
If you think about it, our brains are constantly processing information and churning out thoughts. Experts say we think 60,000 thoughts per day, and many of them can be negative if we’re not constantly being mindful. Since thoughts are a form of energy, in theory, it conceptually makes sense to me that these would get processed through our bodies and ultimately could get “stuck” in certain areas.
For example, a person who feels burdened by a lot of responsibilities might experience shoulder and upper back pain, as they feel like they’re “carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders”. Whereas, a person who has anger and resentment toward others might feel the tension in their lower back or hips.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that physical issues are always brought on by thoughts or feelings. Naturally, if a person gets into an accident or injures themselves, that is truly a physical problem. However, I do believe that our mind is a powerful tool, which can be used for healing or to manifest pain. In addition to this, I’m not claiming that just using our minds will eradicate all physical ailments, but I believe that it can aid us when properly used.
I recently got into a discussion about this topic with a friend who overcame cancer. During the time that he got cancer, he admitted to being under a tremendous amount of stress (as he was building new businesses right at the beginning of the 2008 recession). After undergoing medical treatments, he decided to spend more time in nature, to help reduce and manage his stress. Over time, his cancer went into remission and the Doctors were amazed by his “miraculous” healing.
As we know, stress has been linked to many health and physical problems. That is a big reason why stress management, doing meditation and calming techniques, and being mindful relative to our thoughts and emotions are such an integral part of boosting our health & fitness routines.
While we need to proactively take care of our bodies (through health, nutrition, and exercise), I believe there are wellness-boosting mind-body practices we can do to optimize our well-being. Here are a few examples:
- Daily Meditation: Whether you spend 20-minutes in the morning listening to soothing music while closing your eyes and imagining your day, or you go through a guided meditation or mantra session, meditation is a great way to calm and focus your mind. Essentially, the idea behind meditation is to clear your mind and allow yourself to get centered in the here and now. Often times, we’re so consumed with anxiety-oriented thoughts about the future or getting hung up on past experiences, that we forgot to be present. To ground us (which helps us access our true inner power), a daily meditation routine can improve our physical well-being and mental abilities on so many levels.
- Gratitude Practice: As reported by Psychology Today, they claim that gratitude has been scientifically proven to “improve physical health, improve psychological health, enhance empathy and reduces aggression, (help) people sleep better, improve self-esteem, and increase mental strength.” Writing in a gratitude journal or mentally thinking about all the things you appreciate each day is a great practice that can boost your sense of happiness and improve your mind-body connection.
- Chakra Balancing: As shared on Well+Good, “The chakra system originated in India between 1500 and 500 BC in the oldest text called the Vedas,” says Fern Olivia, a reiki healer, and yoga instructor. The Vedas are the earliest Sanskrit literary records and the most ancient scriptures of Hinduism. As for the purpose of the seven chakras? “They each correspond to specific organs as well as physical, emotional, psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being and influence all areas of your life,” says Olivia. “Within these chakras is ‘prana,’ or the ultimate pure healing energy, that’s all around us and within us, to keep us healthy, happy, and vibrant.” While there isn’t much Western scientific evidence that translates spiritual energy into physical manifestations, the study of the seven chakras and chakra alignment—whether it be through meditation, reiki, or yoga—is rooted in the belief is that “when the chakras are open and aligned, our energy is constantly free-flowing, allowing prana (which is life force energy) to flow through them,” says Olivia.
When I started becoming aware of and letting go of my repressed emotions (that I believe were linked to my back pain), I started “unblocking” the stuck energy and relieving my pain.
Today, I’m happy to report, that my back pain is not a chronic issue. Interestingly enough, the only times I feel back pain nowadays are when I’m feeling stressed or emotionally upset (usually when a relationship triggers my reaction). So, now that I’m aware of this cause-and-effect, I can work on addressing both my emotional and mental state, while physically taking action to heal my body.
If you are looking to boost your health & fitness routine to improve your well-being, you might consider thinking about the mind-body connection, by evaluating your repeated thoughts and deeper feelings as well.
For more health and fitness tips, check out the Diet & Nutrition and Fitness guides on I&C.
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