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fitbody


Mind Your Body


A FASTER PATH TO YOUR NEW YEAR’S FITNESS GOALS


by Victoria L. Freeman I


magine wanting more and getting it—more energy and serenity, more vitality and inspiration. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, about 25 mil- lion Americans turn to mind-body systems of exercise, such as yoga, T’ai chi and Pilates, for just such results and many others.


These folks know that enlightened exercise is about much more than burning calories, flattening abdominals and toning thighs, although all are welcome by-products. Like the ancient Eastern traditions from whence they come, today’s mind-body exercise disciplines recognize movement as a way to restore and harmonize mind, body and soul. Indeed, the traditional phrase “bodymind” reflects a belief, passed down through the ages, that mind and body are inseparable.


Benefits of Mind-Body Harmony Although embraced by the East, the bodymind con- cept has long encountered scientific skepticism in the West. Then, in the mid-20th century, Dr. Hans Seyle glimpsed the phenomenon of mind-body fusion when he discerned how mental stress produces a cascade of physical reactions affect- ing heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and even immune


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function. A couple of decades later, Dr. Herbert Benson made a critical leap when he discovered the relaxation response— essentially a reversal of the stress response. Following these milestones, research on the mind-body connection took off. Today, even the once critical medical profession recog- nizes some of the healing benefits of mind-body exercise. For example, “We know that yoga and T’ai chi dampen the stress response, thereby decreasing insulin resistance and high blood pressure while improving immune function,” confirms Dr. Molly Roberts. Roberts is a holistic medicine physician at Canyon Ranch Resort in Tucson, Arizona, and founder and co-director of Tucson’s Lighthearted Medicine clinic (Light- heartedMedicine.com).


Athletes, medical patients and fitness fans reap the same benefits generally associated with exercise through practic- ing movements known to harmonize the bodymind, such as greater stength, endurance, coordination, balance and flex- ibility. But some participants also report other life-affirming outcomes as well, such as enhanced concentration and focus, greater calm and confidence, and inspired awareness and creativity. Surely exercise is good, but does the mind-body variety deliver benefits transcending those of less enlightened work- outs? While the research community continues its debate, the tidal wave of converts continues.


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