During my junior year of college, a friend recommended karate as an interesting form of exercise and as a great way to clear the mind. I needed one more class to complete my PE requirement, and the idea of a class that would take me out of the rest of my day was very enticing. As computer science major, I was spending most of my time in front of the computer. For hours after I left the computer lab, my mind would spin with possible problems the program might have or with solutions to bugs I had not been able to solve. This made it difficult to sleep or concentrate on other classes. I decided to give karate a try.
I immediately liked the class; the movements were interesting, and there was a reason for each movement. There was so much detail that it required my full attention and all other thoughts faded. When I left the class, I always felt calmer. Unfortunately my schedule did not allow me to take another class while in college, so the first activity I signed up for after I graduated was another karate class. Over a two year period I tried different classes and different styles, but I could not find a class that gave me the same peace that the college class had given me.
At the suggestion of another friend, I tried yoga. I took yoga classes for a number of years, exploring several different styles. In most classes, I found the same attention to detail that I enjoyed in karate. It also took my mind off my day, and at the end of class, besides feeling better physically, I could look at the world with a slightly different perspective and a greater sense of calm.
When I was finally able to create time in my schedule to practice yoga at home, I discovered I could duplicate the same mental quietness on my own that I had found only in class. After several months of regular home practice, I found that if I had to skip a day, I really missed it, especially the mental respite and the sense of calm yoga produced. As my practice grew, I became aware of thoughts that never had a chance to surface during the rest of my hectic day. These thoughts ranged from observations about myself to wild ideas for the future, like moving out of my programming career.
Most of us lead very busy lives. Because of our commitments to work, school, family, and friends, we feel guilty or selfish about taking time for ourselves. If instead of feeling this way, we view our free time as a means to create more peace in our lives, then the time becomes well spent.
Though yoga has become my way of finding tranquility, favorite hobbies such as gardening or biking can be just as effective. Even a regular walk or just sitting quietly and drinking a cup of tea can be a restorative moment. The key is using that time as a break from the rest of the day: a time to think your own thoughts and to let ideas present themselves. If you can make this a regular practice, you may find that the perspective and sense of calm you feel during your quiet time extends into the rest of your day