Cross-Training For The Mind


Perhaps you have experienced, or at least heard of, the benefits of cross-training for the body. The view being that when we repeatedly do the same movements over and over, our bodies can get too “efficient” and therefor complacent around a set of movements. When this happens our overall conditioning decreases and our risk of injury increases. By training the body in a variety of ways, we open ourselves up to greater strength and flexibility.

We can take this very same approach when we want to create a more resilient and flexible mind; one that works in the service of our greatest hopes and desires as opposed to being too “efficient” with thought patterns that no longer serve us, ultimately even harming us. Our nervous systems, i.e. the brain and therefor our thinking, thrive in the presence of novelty. The more novel and unfamiliar something is, the more the mind can stretch and change.

This knowledge lies embedded in the system of Yoga. The ancient yogis came to know that when they put their bodies into different shapes, it gave them access to different energies and states of consciousness. If you have ever seen a picture of an old yogi putting themselves into an unimaginable position, you get a sense of the mind states they were accessing. Different levels of consciousness and ways of thinking become available to us when we move our bodies in unusual and unhabituated ways.

Modern living encourages a lot of linear, forward movement while being hunched over something. There is also a lot of sitting. Not only is this hard on the body, but it creates a kind of equivalent mind set. If you have ever wondered why you always keep getting the same things over and over again in your life, it is because you keep doing the same things over and over; in both mind and body.

If you desire a different way of thinking about yourself and your place in the world, try intentionally moving your body in unique and unfamiliar ways. Get on the floor and move. Walk backwards, sideways and in circles. Try walking in messy and random ways as opposed to the linear habit of getting from here to there in the fastest and shortest way possible. Meander, shake and shimmy as you move through your day. And then, notice. Outlook, moods, thinking and energy levels shift according to the way we move our bodies. A particularly powerful practice is to become aware of a thought you would like to shift and then, whenever it arises, consciously move your body in an unusual way. Your intention and a new shape in the body creates a new neurological reality in the mind. And with it, the change you are seeking.