Philosophy Series: How to Make Best Use of Your Energy

How often do you feel like you have no energy? You wake up lethargic or find yourself collapsed on the sofa at the end of the day wondering how on earth it is still Monday?

Maybe your energy spikes and falls during the day depending on how many flat whites you have managed to get hold of.

The early darkness of winter evenings doesn’t help me at all, and I am counting down the days until spring emerges and I can stuff my opaque tights to the back of my drawer again!

Having ‘energy’ means having the necessary capacity and strength to perform the physical and mental tasks required by your day, whether that is running for the bus, preparing work presentations or training for a marathon.

Most of us would probably like to have more energy. Or at least a more consistent ebb of energy, rather than a caffeine-fuelled raggedly stop-start energy that leaves us both wired and tired at the same time.  

But how can we achieve this? Full disclaimer – I’m not sure. In fact, I’m writing this thinking about whether it’s time for another espresso when I know I should just have a glass of water!

But this is where yoga – both the physical practice and underpinning philosophy can step in.  

A yoga practice can play a role to help you figure out an answer that works for you. The practice of yoga can give you the space to consider where and how you expend your energy – both physically and mentally.

Unlike other forms of movement, a yoga class invites you to move at the pace that fits your needs. If your energy is depleted, you don’t have to do everything the teacher offers. You can sit and just breathe without fear of recrimination (I promise 😊). But equally, participating in an upbeat yet not wholly exhausting yoga class could be a useful way to reboot your energy.

In our recent yoga classes at Jiva in Earlsfield, we have been looking at the yama “Brahmacharya” as set out in Patanjali’s sutras which calls for yogis to use their energy for the ‘greatest good’. [It also calls for a lifetime of celibacy for all yogis as a means of conserving energy – but for the purpose of this post I’ll ignore that – as most modern yoga teachers conveniently tend to do!]

One translation of the sutra reads: “Strength and vitality come to those who use their energy for the greatest good.”*

Using the ancient teachings in today’s world could be a useful exercise in exploring where you waste energy and where you can better direct your energy. What drains your battery? What depletes you?  

I know a brisk walk in the sunshine is a sure-fire way to reboot my energy levels. But perhaps there’s something else that works for you?

Brahmacharya also calls for us to direct what energy we do have into something ‘good’. It asks us to consider what we say ‘yes’ to and what we decide to turn down or not get involved in.

For me, I aim to not waste my time and energy with meanness or gossip – and to remove myself from situations where this might occur.

It means attempting to not be consumed by negative self-talk about my capabilities and potential. It means trying not waste energy assuming what other people think of you!

Think how much more time and headspace you’d have if you weren’t using your energy to be worried about what that random person on tube was thinking about your outfit/face/body.

Here are some other ways I hope to boost my energy levels to help me get through to Spring.

  • Daily movement – It doesn’t have to be full-blown exercise – but a quick walk or a short yoga sequence at home can lift spirits. Sometimes I think exerting a little energy can result in generating more energy. Going to a class can also give you that human connection – there’s a feeling of comradery as you all try to complete a round of gruesome burpees.

  • Sunshine breaks – Sadly for me this doesn’t mean a weekend break in Spain. But getting outside in the morning or lunchtime for a run or walk and catching a momentary glimmer of sunshine helps clear my head so I can better direct my energy to the tasks ahead.

  • More and better-quality sleep – A work in progress for me. But I am trying to re-wire my night-owl brain to enjoy going to bed earlier. This means *attempting* to get off my phone at least an hour before bed and not watching 3 episodes of The Crown back to back.

  • Saying ‘No’ to events and situations that I genuinely don’t want to go to – yet at the same time saying ‘Yes’ to meeting up with friends/family or anything that I know will ultimately help me feel energised and more connected – even if it does mean putting something on that aren’t yoga leggings.  

*Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden

This blog post is the second in a series exploring the Yamas and Niyamas set up in Patanjali’s sutras. Click here to read earlier posts. To explore these themes in further depth – book onto this term’s classes at Jiva Health in Earlsfield. 

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