Little getaways from the daily routine are important for both physical and mental well-being. However, an escape doesn’t have to come in the form of spending several days or weeks somewhere on holiday – checking in regularly with yourself on a journey inwards can also provide much needed relief. In an age where everything seems to be moving faster and faster and many people feel overwhelmed by all that’s expected from them, mind-expanding techniques such as yoga and meditation are enjoying immense popularity.

© Rainer Berg/Westend61

A Way To Be In Harmony With Yourself

When facing an avalanche of stress that’s on the verge of burying you, it’s often easier said than done to simply take a step back, catch your breath and contemplate your situation from a healthy distance. The virtue of mindfulness, which means being fully aware of the present moment, is an ability which many of us have to relearn and reincorporate into our lives. It’s no coincidence that meditation and yoga have gained many devoted practitioners and although currently trending, their popularity is much more substantial than a superficial, short-lived fad. What the interest and enthusiasm for these practices reflect is our yearning to achieve physical and mental harmony.

Meditation has been a component of spiritual practice in many religions for centuries. The purpose of meditational mindfulness and concentration exercises is to gain mental composure and reach a thought-free state of mind. In Buddhism and Hinduism, meditation constitutes an essential element for attaining enlightenment. Even with the absence of religious aspects or purely spiritual goals, meditation techniques have firmly established themselves in the Western world as a way to acquire an improved sense of balance and well-being.

© Kniel Synnatzschke/Westend61

Yoga: Physical Exercise & Inner Reflection

The receptive form of meditation focuses on calming introversion, often with a stress on “stillness” of mind and body, while the dynamic form is based on physical movements. The most well-known form of dynamic meditation is yoga. Various styles of yoga originating from ancient Indian teachings were already introduced to Europe in the 19th century. Yoga which is practiced in Europe has also been influenced by elements of esotericism and psychology, and has been adapted to suit the living conditions in the Western world.

Some types of yoga focus mainly on mental concentration, whereas others focus more on physical exercise. The most popular form of yoga for physical fitness is Hatha yoga. In a sense, Western styles of yoga connect modern fitness trends and Far East spirituality, combining physical training with inner reflection. Insurance companies, as part of their focus on preventative health measures, contribute to covering the costs for many types of Yoga courses.

Yoga, however, is not the only way for you to achieve inner balance with gentle exercise: A walk in the woods, a hike through a scenic landscape, taking in the view from atop a hill or mountain you’ve just climbed, even that bike ride to work on a brisk spring morning can be relaxing and calming.

© Peter Scholl/Westend61

Tranquil Retreats From The Turmoil

From a photographer’s perspective, the topics yoga and meditation – often in combination with trending aspects such as ‘mindfulness’, ‘organic’, ‘slow living’ or ‘fitness’ – present a field that offers a wide range of variety and subjects. Perhaps there’s a man who’s lying beneath a tree, his hat pulled over his face, left to himself just to be himself. Other subjects involving ‘summer, sun, nature’ make for suitable backgrounds as well. Difficult, somewhat acrobatic Yoga poses are always eye-catching, and even more so if they aren’t captured in an outdoor setting, but rather while being practiced on a kitchen table or in an office, so that the background representing the everyday world reinforces the topical contrast. Presenting this contrast also works well in images featuring employees. Maybe there’s a worker putting himself temporarily ‘offline’, sitting cross-legged on the floor, calmly recollecting his energy while surrounded by the non-stop hustle and bustle in the office. Perhaps it’s a creative who needs to go ‘unplugged’ for a few minutes, in order to free up his mind for generating fresh ideas.

Many possible subjects – one unifying message: We can manage peaceful havens just about anywhere for checking in with ourselves, we simply have to set aside the time to visit them.

More images on that issue can be seen here.