Did you know that the job of a firefighter is almost like going to a yoga class? Almost. Minus the turquoise yoga mat.
Let’s talk about yoga first. In its most general definition, yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that creates a sense of union in our mind, body, and spirit. It brings us balance.
The mental benefits of yoga include: It teaches us to quiet the mind, so energy can be focused; it helps us relax and handle stressful situations; it encourages positive thoughts and self-acceptance.
The physical benefits of yoga include: It creates a strong, toned, flexible body. Yoga improves energy, vitality, cardio and circulatory health.
The spiritual benefits of yoga include: It creates awareness of our bodies, our feelings, the world around us, and the needs of others. It helps us live the concept of “oneness.”
As you can see, yoga is a perfect way to practice balance of the mind, body, and soul. But yoga is certainly not the only way we can find balance in our lives. I have discovered that we can find balance in many places. When I first became a firefighter, I was surprised to find that the union of mind, body, and spirit can occur even in the commotion of the emergency scene.
Finding Balance in All Things
Let me explain. When I’m on the scene of an emergency, my mind is acutely focused on the here and now. As I’m using the glass master tool to cut out the windshield of a minivan that is turned on it’s side, the driver hanging awkwardly by his seatbelt, the man-made construct of time disappears, and I become one with the moment.
The mind chatter has disappeared, as my focus sharpens on my gloved hands gripping the glass master tool, sliding it forcefully down the windshield, the glass breaking in small laminated pieces. Each glinting piece of glass catches my eye, as if in slow motion, as it falls away.
At the same time, I see the driver. He looks ok, only a small one inch cut on his face, but he looks anxious to get out of this fishbowl. CDs, papers, books, a soda can are strewn in disarray inside the vehicle. My clear, focused mind takes it all in, seemingly at once. In the now moment, everything seems realer, colors amplified, details indisputably clear.
As my mind takes in this 3D picture, my body system goes into full go-mode. My feet place themselves in a balanced stance; my core muscles tighten as my arms slide the blade of the glass master downward into the windshield, ripping the glass. My body stretches up to cut away the third side of the windshield. Balanced leg muscles keep me stable. Six additional strong arms come in and we tear away the windshield, opening up the fishbowl.
In a matter of minutes, the driver is extricated completely and strapped onto a backboard, on his way to the hospital for further evaluation. As we put our gear away and stow our tools, I feel good about our work. I feel good that our driver was lucky – it could have been worse. I feel grateful and humble to be part of the fire service. I feel good to be part of a team that used our hard training and expertise to the best of our abilities. I feel connected to humanity. My inner spirit feels satisfied and good. Body, mind, spirit fulfilled. Just like yoga.
Exercises for the Mind, Body and Spirit
So, what if we don’t extricate people out of cars all the time, and maybe the ancient practice of yoga is not up our alley. Now what? you ask.
How can we take care of our whole selves and balance our body, mind, and soul? Here are a few simple ways to take care of the different aspects of our precious, whole beings.
1. Get out of your mind. Close your eyes, mediate, sit in the stillness for a few moments each day. As your mind is silent, watch how you relax.
2. Practice mindful meditation. Mindful meditation is about focus. Everything can be a meditation: doing the dishes, walking the dog, brushing your teeth if you focus completely on what is at hand.
3. Become the Observer. Observe yourself. Observe without your mind analyzing, criticizing, calculating, commenting. You are cultivating a clear mind.
1. Move your body, exercise, play a sport, dance in your living room (my personal favorite). When we get our bodies moving, we stimulate the good feeling juices in our systems, we release toxins, and we feel more positive.
2. Breathe. Big deep breaths.
3. Connect with the outdoors. Walk barefoot in the rain, lie in the grass and smell that good earth, curl your toes in the sand. We ground ourselves when we connect with Mama Nature.
1. Practice gratitude. Start your day before you get up in appreciation. What can you appreciate in your day? The more you appreciate the easier it gets, the better you feel.
2. Connect with others. Connect daily with friends and even strangers. Become engaged with a supportive and loving community.
3. Help others. Helping others connects us to humanity and we may realize we are part of the whole.
4. Live your passion. Do what makes you happy, everyday, from the little to the big things.
Let us be good to all the parts of our being and nourish our whole selves—where ever we may be!