Challenge Yourself Through Physical Exercise
There are some very good psychological reasons, along with the obvious health benefits, to challenge yourself through daily physical exercise. Learning to stay focused and keep going while your body screams at you to stop is pretty much all mental even though the activity is physical, and it will make the various mental and emotional challenges you face in your daily seem more doable.
We recommend yoga above any other form of exercise, but regardless of the way you choose to get in shape, if you take some time to think about the philosophical side of what you’re doing you’ll get much more out of the experience and be able to apply the lessons you are learning about yourself to other spheres of your life.
In yoga the central idea is to yoke mind and body, overcoming the physical strain by mindfully focusing on your breathing. What is really most important about the process is the dawning realization that your mind and body are one.
Most of us think of ourselves as distinctly separate from our bodies. We can lay the responsibility for this idea at least partially on the doorstep of Descartes and his philosophical system. Trying to make room for the existence of the soul, he landed on the idea of a mind-body split, encapsulated nicely in his famous words ‘I think therefore I am’. The idea has stuck. Our sometimes unconscious but very real feeling that we are not our bodies might partially explain why so many of us neglect them. It is not ourselves we are mistreating, but something that we own; a huge difference.
A daily yoga practice is an important step in nurturing your body, giving it the respect it deserves. Before long you will realize that actually you are nurturing yourself, giving yourself the respect you deserve. This will in turn make you evaluate the way the people you surround yourself with treat you. If you have suffered through emotional and especially physical abuse, one outcome is to see your body as something that’s not very valuable or precious, something that doesn’t have any rights, something disposable and ugly. Doesn’t it make sense that you wouldn’t feel all that motivated to take good care of your body?
The pain of physical exertion during exercise and being able to overcome this pain through mental toughness is the antithesis of the pain of abuse and being able to overcome this abuse through mental toughness because the first is an inward choice for your growth and happiness while the second is a choice by someone else, where you have no say in the matter, for your decay and unhappiness. Yoga or any other form of intense physical exercise is one of the fastest ways I can think of to raise your self-esteem, because your body will start looking better, but more importantly because a shift in your mentality will occur where you decide that you are worth it.