Have you ever thought about how long you’ve been doing certain things? Of my many pursuits, I only recently made some strong connections between two of my favorite activities: reading and yoga. I figured out that this year celebrates my 28th year of using and teaching speed reading strategies and my 15th year of practicing yoga.

So how are they related?

1 – It’s about mono-focusing.

Reading – In this ADD (attention deficit disorder) world, being able to focus while reading is not easy to do. However, learning to mono-focus will calm the monkey brain and allow for better concentration which leads to increased comprehension and ultimately higher levels of retention.

Yoga – Yoga inherently teaches mono-focusing (some now call it mindfulness). It calms the nervous system and allows the brain to think more clearly and learn more easily. As a self-proclaimed type-A person, I will admit it took a while to slow my mind down to practice yoga but the long-term focusing benefits have been worth the effort.

2 – It’s about listening to your body.

Reading – Have you ever sat down to read and been so tired that you fell asleep sitting up? Your body has spoken! So next time you get ready to tackle some reading, ask yourself this very useful question: “Is this the best time for me to be reading?” Maybe you need to find times earlier in your day or a more wakeful time of day to tackle it. You may also need to move yourself away from the bed, couch or recliner!

Yoga – Yoga is about doing what you can today based on how your mind and body feel. It’s not a competition with anyone in the room. What you can do today may be different than yesterday. So if there’s any physical pain, back off. If your body says “not today”, don’t do it. And it’s all okay. It’s as simple as that.

3 – It’s about the breath

Reading – Did you know that word-for-word readers (also called subvocalizers) breathe more when they read? They may not be “saying” anything out loud but they’re looking at the words, saying them in the mouth or under the breath, hearing them with their ears and then understanding them in the brain. This mental whispering prevents a person from reading faster.

TRY THIS: For a few seconds, hold your breath while trying to move your eyes quickly over the words on a page. Most people can read faster this way because they aren’t using their mouth to sound out the words nor use the ears to hear. Instead, the reader just sees the words and understands them. Of course the problem is you can’t hold your breath that long! It’s a good start though on knowing what it feels like to read quickly without mentally talking.

Yoga – Yoga is all about the prana, or the breath. Learning to inhale deeply and exhale completely in a slow and controlled manner creates mental and physical calm. Learning to synchronize movement with the breath is an incredible experience that happens naturally as one’s yoga practice evolves. This article from Stephen Cope of the Kripalu Institute shares some of what I’m talking about. As you calm the mind, possibly getting to a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute, you open up the possibility for more learning with better memory from your reading.

More to come next month . . .

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