Yoga: A metaphor for a strong life

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer

Surya namaskar is a part of an ancient Indian yoga tradition. Often referred to by its more common English name, “Sun Salutation”, this sequence encompasses everything from physical exercise to a heightened sense of awareness. Breathing, movement and aligning of the body’s energy flow can all be harnessed  through the exploration of this art form, and we can learn much today from the masters of this peaceful meditative exercise.

Often, when we participate in a grueling training session at the gym, we think in terms of which body parts we are exercising. My own workouts follow a dedicated regimen of training each muscle group on its own day, designing and tweaking specific workouts toward a goal of increasing lean muscle mass.  Our ancestors who practiced the fine art of Surya namaskar, on the other hand, had a very different vision when it came to “working the body”. In fact, the ancient yoga masters had their own belief system in regard to healthy habits.  A visit to an International Expo, held recently at a local school, opened my eyes to a particularly enlightening and peaceful way to view one’s approach to exercise:

• a good tongue exercise: strive to speak more from the heart and less from the mouth

• a good facial exercise: smile as often as possible

• a good brain exercise: aim to think only constructive thoughts

• a good leg exercise: always walk towards knowledge, wisdom and improved health

• a good eye exercise: try to see only the positive beauty in others

• a good strength exercise: cultivate the energy to endure when life is tough

• a good breathing exercise: inhale great works of art, literature and music; exhale all negative thoughts

• a good heart exercise: each day, choose to improve your community, environment, and ultimately, yourself

If these exercises seem different from those in which you are currently engaging at the gym, perhaps it is time for a change.  While building muscle mass does have its benefits, nothing is more important than that which stirs the soul, for therein lies the true measure of the strength of all human beings.  Namaste!

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Lifestyle/Weight Management Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center.