The Seven Virtues

Stretching

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

Reach, feel, breathe. Move…slowly, strongly. Let the air find its way, cell by cell. This is the beginning. The body finding its place, arms unfurling into the world, legs limbering into the ground, toes opening into the sun. For 5,000 years stretching has been the way to physical, metal and spiritual health. Yoga instructor Colleen Saidman Yee said that “the movement along with the holding of poses keeps the muscular body in great shape. The multitude of poses strengthens every muscle and also requires the body to stay supple.” A great range of motion and refined coordination of joint movements leads to relaxation, good digestion, easy respiration, optimum circulation, a calmer nervous system and a more positive outlook.

Sleeping

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

Mahatma Gandhi referred to waking as being reborn. And it is. During sleep, our bodies restore, rejuvenate and rebirth all that was lost since the last time. It is also when, perchance, we dream. Through sleep, our skin replenishes, blood pressure drops and breathing slows. Muscles and tissue are repaired. Hormones balance. The forces of gravity are balanced across our horizontal postures. Everything balances. Yet, Dr. Michael Weinstein, director of NYU Winthrop Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center told us “close to 75 percent of the population sleeps less than the recommended eight hours per night.” Try now, take time to sleep.

Nourishing

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

Bodies are made healthy, active, strong and balanced by what is put into them. Everything about our food—what and how we eat—builds into the energy our bodies need. Great Neck registered dietician Nancy Mazarin links good nutrition and healthy weight. She said the way we fuel our bodies has everything to do with reducing risk of chronic diseases and morbidity from killers like heart disease, cancer and stroke. Choose good things to eat, one from each food group. Plan a meal time when chewing and eating and enjoying is the focus, not in the car or at the desk. Eat slowly, eat a little. Rest, wait to gauge hungriness. Repeat as necessary.

Touching

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

The first sense we acquire is touch. As we develop in the womb and upon birth, our connection to the world is through touching our mothers. Communication through skin is essential to our interpretation of the world—does this feel hot, cold, rough, soft, sharp…It is a complex dynamic, touching. But man has had fluency of touch even in our most primitive selves. Human contact, which is often taboo, influences our emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual states. The simple gesture of a hug can stimulate brain development, heart rate, relaxation and reduce stress. Reach out and touch someone.

Meditating

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

“Through meditation, we learn how to subside our distracting thoughts and become still. Through this stillness, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises.” said Kerrin Perniciaro, education program coordinator at Huntington’s Kadampa Meditation Center Long Island. Meditating can erase much of the stress that comes from within. Slow, steady, natural breathing while the mind finds a calm, quiet place creates spaciousness where the world is usually trying to push in. Clean the slate. Open the inner being to a fresh start each day to create anchoring in response to the tumultuous energy surrounding chores, work, commitments. Where the constancy of giving can deplete energy, meditation can restore a sense of self, empowering the id, the psyche and the spirit. Sit down somewhere, maybe the floor. Close your eyes. Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Make no effort to think. Simply feel the breath moving through your lungs. Let your mind wander…

Exercising

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

Pent up, stitched up, stressed out. The intricate machine that is the human body can become caged in its own vessel. Expel stifled energy, exercise. A mix of physical activity can help strengthen muscles and bones. It can counter the effects of aging. It helps breathing. “Exercise can play a number of important roles. Although the physical are most noticeable, exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, which make you feel better and more relaxed. In turn, these improve your mood and lower stress levels,” said Anthony Giallanzo, president of Ultimate Performance + Fitness Inc. in Greenvale.

Thinking

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image: bruce soyez-bernard

To really think is to be mindful. It is to be fully aware of surroundings, thinking with mind, eyes, ears, nose, skin. It is to activate all the senses and perceive the world in our most animalistic of ways. “Mindfulness allows you to step out of living life on automatic pilot and be more intentional about how you respond to the various thoughts, impulses and emotions that arise,” said Cory Muscara, founder and head teacher of West Babylon’s Long Island Center for Mindfulness. “It’s a practice that offers freedom to respond to various stimuli rather than reacting through your usual behavioral conditioning.” This heightened situational awareness is primal. Access it, strip away modern conveniences and feel each moment in its fullest.