Incorporating Spiritual Awareness

First off, to incorporate spiritual awareness programming into your club, you must understand what it is. Spiritual awareness programming includes any wellness regime that incorporates exercise techniques that focus on integrating physical exercise movement and mind/ body awareness. Typically, these techniques are Eastern movement practices such as yoga, meditation, tai chi chuan, qi gong or other types of martial-art techniques. These forms of movement allow the participants to become more aware of their own personal experience on many levels simultaneously.

Through the discipline of the physical exercise, breath work and concentration required to perform the activity, one has the opportunity to observe her physical strengths or weaknesses, mental reactions or distractions, and emotional responses or blockages, and perhaps have a spiritual awakening. Often during the relaxation segment of the workout, one is able to have a deepening experience, and come to a better understanding and acceptance of where she is in her life on each of these levels. This portion of the workout is the reward: the richness of integrating mind, body and spirit, and allowing oneself a moment of reflection and renewal.

Too often in our hurried, goal-oriented lives, we find ourselves rushing from moment to moment without much time for thought or reflection. The No. 1 concern in our society is the growing amount of stress and the diseases that occur because of the inability to process or deal effectively with these high levels of stress. Stress in and of itself can be a positive growth opportunity. It is when we experience too much stress or are unable to deal with it effectively that we experience distress. Our clients are looking for positive ways to handle stress. They are turning to us for the most efficient means to attain their goals of fitness, good health, vitality and longevity for a lifetime of wellness.

We are a society that is living longer than any other generation. A baby boomer turns 50 years of age every eight seconds in the United States, and this is a generation that has every intention of aging optimally. Our youth are ready to take on the world, and need strong, balanced bodies and minds to deal with the challenges that lie ahead. Our job as fitness/wellness professionals is to give them access to a totally balanced fitness package that includes programming for body, mind and spirit.

--Catherine Brumley is the fitness director at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, Lenox, Mass. Her formal training in dance and music has been the backdrop for her interest in tai chi and yoga. She is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Tai Chi Association. She is also certified in Spinning.


Programming Checklist

If you offer your members the following classes, then you are providing them with a totally balanced fitness package that caters to their body, mind and spirit.

* Cardiorespiratory activities-equipment or classes

* Strength training/conditioning classes or personal workout sessions

* Personal training options

* Flexibility workouts (e.g., stretch classes)

* Yoga

* Meditation

* Breathing classes

* Qi Gong and/or tai chi chuan

* Other possible forms of martial arts


Factors to Consider When Offering Spiritual Awareness Programs

* Basic Hatha yoga provides a good foundation

* Qi gong is easily accessible and simple to learn initially

* Tai chi chuan Yang style short form is a popular form

* Look for a yoga or meditation instructor who is certified through the National Yoga Alliance

* Look for a tai chi chuan, qi gong or martial arts instructor who is certified, possibly through the American Tai Chi Association or National Qi Gong Association, or someone who has many years of experience

* Offer the class at a time slot that is accessible

* Consider offering a series of six classes as an introduction to yoga, meditation, tai chi or qi gong

* Create a positive environment for the class (e.g., a quiet studio, relaxing music, proper props and equipment, fresh circulating air)

* Emphasize the importance of incorporating a spiritual awareness class into an existing weekly workout program (e.g., two indoor cycling classes and one yoga workout weekly)

* Focus on the necessity of balancing one's workout schedule in order to cross-train and to avoid injury, boredom and eventual burnout

* Highlight the opportunity to learn and enjoy new experiences

* Introduce the idea of the joys of improved self-awareness