Life is stressful. Sometimes it’s good stress and sometimes it’s bad stress, but either way, it’s stress on your mind and body. If you’re like me and Mr. Saturday, you might pack in everything possible into a short vacation. It’s no wonder we need vacations from our vacations!

This is why I want to stress the importance of relaxation and reflection, which is what I think about when I hear “yoga.” It’s easy to get bogged down by all the many worries in today’s world: I’m going to be late for work! I need to get the patio screen repaired. What’s for dinner tonight? I need to find more time to exercise. How do I increase my pay? How can I retire sooner?

These types of thoughts and questions are ever present in our daily lives, but the last question is really top of mind for us. While everything in our lives seems to revolve around our goal of early retirement, it is of upmost importance to enjoy the journey because that’s really what it’s all about. Relaxation and reflection is key to enjoying the journey of life.

According to Yogawiz, “Yoga is essentially a type of lifestyle or a form of exercise that involves participation at a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. It was developed primarily with the aim of improving one’s quality of life by bringing about a union of the mind, body and soul.” This is so simple and yet so powerful. At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m a yogie nut, but truthfully, I have only officially done yoga a couple of times in my lifetime. What I find most appealing about yoga are the principles upon which it is based. So let’s review the actual five principles of yoga that I found on yogawiz.com and how these can be incorporated into your daily life.

1. Relaxation

It’s important to find a way to relax properly – to get rid of muscle tension and revitalize your whole body and mind. We have taken this to heart over the last couple of weeks as we’ve started to walk every morning before work. Sure, it was difficult to start this new routine since it required going to bed earlier so that we could wake up earlier, but we haven’t regretted the choice. It’s funny how much happier I am to go to sleep at night and to wake up in the morning now that we take our morning walks. Luckily, we live in a community with a walking path around a beautiful lake, which makes for awesome nature watching. There are three baby ducklings that I am particular fond of, and I’m excited to watch them grow over time. We are at peace on our walks, and I bring that peace with me throughout my day.

2. Exercise

I believe in this principle – the idea that the physical body is meant to exercise and move. Looking around during our morning walks, I see other animals constantly on the move – swimming in the water, flying in a tree, fishing for food. We weren’t meant to sit still either, which makes a sit-down job that much harder. Our morning walks have certainly helped, and there are other practices that also help over time. For example, opt for the stairs rather than the elevator, set a timer at regular intervals at work to remind you to get up, take a short walk, stretch, go dancing, or find a new hobby that includes the element of exercise. Exercise doesn’t feel like a chore if you’re having fun!

3. Breathing

This principle is a great reminder to be conscious of breathing rhythmically and fully to increase the intake of oxygen. So the next time you’re driving in traffic or getting stressed at work, take a moment to take some deep breaths and you may just feel a little better.

4. Diet

You are what you eat! The food we consume certainly has an effect on our bodies and minds. I completely understand that this is easier said than done. It can be difficult to make the best choice when that layered chocolate cake is at the check-out counter at your local diner, but ideally we should strive to eat foods that make us feel good over the long term.

It’s not like Mr. Saturday and I don’t eat treats – after all, there is homemade cobbler in the fridge right now – but we really enjoy eating a mostly a whole foods, plant based diet. It’s fun to pick fruits and vegetables from our garden and we enjoy our weekly trips to the local farmers market. Over ten years ago, we made a conscious decision to live a healthier life by choosing foods that make us feel good throughout the day, and we’ve never looked back.

5. Positive Thinking and Meditation

This principle is perhaps the most challenging for me, but I strive to be a more positive person every day. Emotions such as anger, blame, resentment, and jealousy are draining and can negatively affect your health – it’s not worth it! Finding a silver lining in otherwise negative life events can help turn around your point of view, and will lead to feelings of hope and encouragement.

After writing this blog post, I think I may actually go to a Yoga class to see what I’m missing. It will be a new adventure!

Now imagine the relaxation and reflection we’ll get accomplished once we’re retired!