Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Health

Walking For Fun, Health and Therapy

I was enjoying a pleasant walk, breathing in the lovely weather, smiling at the chubby little squirrels that swerved every which way when I saw a woman walking towards me. She was far away but I recognized her walk. It was my sister.

“What a nice coincidence,” we said to each other as we met in the middle of the road and started to walk together, stopping here and there to take pictures because, unfortunately, this was an unusual encounter.

For almost a decade, my sisters and I would get up every morning and walk for five miles, even in the freezing cold. Four of us were serious walkers, but sometimes the fifth sister accompanied us. Sometimes, my cousin came along. When it was snowing or raining, people would watch us from their windows and probably think we were crazy.

Our schedules caused us to stop this morning tradition. Now each sister walks as her schedule permits, but we all still walk outdoors. Although I sometimes do miss those group walks. For the most part, they were healthy – except when we would get into such heated disagreements that the whole neighborhood again thought we were crazy.

Despite that, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan found that taking group nature walks is associated with a great deal of mental health benefits, including decreased depression, improved well-being and mental health, and lower perceived stress.

Sean Gobin is a veteran who founded Warrior Hike, a nonprofit outdoor therapy program that helps combat veterans’ transition by hiking the country’s national scenic trails. Gobin recently won an award for this program which has helped many veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Walking outdoors is one of the many free and beneficial gifts available to us. When we use these gifts, we have a more powerful relationship with this earth, with ourselves and each other, and we’re less dependent on medications for healing.

Advertisements

Combining Yoga and Journaling

Journaling

I love journaling and I love yoga. So when my niece Sandy, a yoga instructor, asked me to participate in a trial yoga and journaling class for her upcoming studio workshop, I was delighted to do so. I have been doing yoga for over ten years and many instructors have incorporated creative ideas along with this practice but journaling was never one of them – although it makes perfect sense to combine the two.

Many times in my yoga class the instructor would say a profound statement or I myself received an inner message, a revelation which I wanted to jot down. I would remind myself to take note of these things at home, only to get too preoccupied. I’d leave the yoga studio, pick up my children from the daycare center, and arrive home to a list of unfinished household chores. By nighttime, whatever I wanted to write left my mind and like a bird flew into the sky.

When Sandy led this yoga and journaling class Tuesday afternoon, I enjoyed the moments in between the meditations and yoga movements where we had the opportunity to look within and write about certain experiences.  It was a lovely, meaningful and deep way to start the day, with its positive energy spilling over into the evening and night.

As I write this, I recall an interview with Billy Hayes, who wrote a book about his life in a Turkish prison, Midnight Express. The story was later made into an award winning film by Oliver Stone.  Hayes says that yoga saved his life in jail.

“Stress kills,” Hayes said in the interview. “Yoga keeps me healthy, helps me chill. Emotionally, it keeps me balanced. It saved me in jail. In prison, you have no control over anything except you; you still have yourself, your own body, so yoga gives you back that control that the prison takes away.”

Today Hayes works with James Fox on the Prison Yoga Project.

Writing has had a similar healing, growing and thriving effect on people.

“When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.” Michael Leboeuf

Imagine the power of combining these two activities into our regular routine.

For more information about this workshop, visit www.sandynaimou.com

pure intention 2-26-15