A special synergy comes from investing in three different kinds of activities that combine to improve your health and wellness: eating patterns, activity patterns, and rest & relaxation patterns. Activities that combine more than one at the same time — like gardening, picnics, or yoga, to name just a few — bring an extra special benefit. Here are a few examples of ways I have found to mix and match eating, moving, and relaxing.
Growing up in New Jersey, each afternoon, as soon as I exited the school bus, I would drop my school bag and head off to spend time on the trails in the 600-acre wooded property across the street from my house. Those daily afternoon walks cleared my mind, calmed my brain, focused my thoughts, and piqued my appetite. After a while, I was ready to come inside for homework, guitar lessons, and a snack. I moved, relaxed, and ate.
Many of last summer’s dinners started with a trip out to the garden to collect armfuls of Swiss chard and dishes of tomatoes. My daughter and I had nailed together boards to make a raised bed, filled that bed with yards of compost and topsoil, watered and weeded, and weeded some more. After dinner, we sat outside on many late summer evenings to watch the vegetables grow! We moved, we ate, and we relaxed.
On a recent Sunday morning I was invited to share in a most generous meal. Plans to spend time with a friend turned into a brunch invitation featuring poached salmon with mint pesto, strained yogurt cheese and za’atar [hyssop] served with crusty bread, caramelized Brussels sprouts, carrot and blueberry salad, olives, homemade baked goods, and dark chocolate truffles. There were unnecessary apologies for mint that came from the local supermarket instead of its usual source, her mother’s mint patch, lovingly tended not far away. The Brussels sprouts tasted as if they had been sprayed with a light coating of honey, but they had not; patience was the secret ingredient, she said. I observed that nothing cannot be made delicious in 8 hours at 250 degrees.
It was not just about the food. The table on which our meal was served was set with an embroidered beribboned table runner, and matching milky white pedestaled serving dishes. Thoughtful conversation, dreams for the future, sincere admiration for all kinds of work well done and stories well told, and friends, new and old. Silver and gold. We ate, relaxed, and nourished ourselves in the broadest possible sense.
Yoga is all about the breath, and each position is a vessel for our breath. Yoga is physically challenging, but it’s not just about activity. It’s about rest and relaxation, deep breaths, down time for our brains. Yoga practice is about moving and relaxing at the same time. Muscles yield, rib cages expand, and I master the possibilities one tiny bit at a time. I move, and relax.