Yoga and mindfulness are becoming more and more popular. The benefits of both are being experienced globally as steady streams of people are drawn towards these practices.
Both Yoga and mindfulness are proven stress relievers and thanks to various studies we are now able to clearly see that these techniques influence our health and well-being in extremely positive ways. This is something that the early yoga practitioners were always aware of.
Mindfulness involves paying complete attention to what we are doing at the present moment in time, without passing judgment or allowing the mind to drift to future thoughts or past memories. This technique is relatively easy to do especially whilst performing yoga. So long as we don’t pass judgment and we accept that it is totally normal and okay for the mind to wander.
When we practise Yoga we aim to do it with awareness. By paying complete attention to any sensations that we experience in the body and by maintaining focus on both our breath and alignment, then when our mind wanders we work to bring our focus back to what we are doing on our yoga mats.
All too often we are doing one thing whilst thinking about something totally different. Doing this can prevent us from being present and fully engaged in the current activity. If we practise mindfulness we are able to increase levels of satisfaction.
By entering each task, interaction or activity fully present we are able to completely experience what we are doing. This benefits not only ourselves but all those that we interact with.
By bringing this level of awareness to our yoga practice we are able to maximise the benefits and connect fully with ourselves, it also deepens our personal awareness both physically and emotionally.
How to practise yoga mindfully
Start by spending a little time at the beginning of the practice, sitting in the easy pose (sukhasana) with the ankles crossed and a straight spine, or lying on your back. Breathe slowly through your nose.
Take a little time to scan through your body noticing how each part of your body feels and any sensations that you might be experiencing. Do not engage with these sensations or allow them to trigger other thoughts or memories, just acknowledge that they are present and continue the technique.
Once you have finished scanning your body; take your focus to your breath. Focus completely on the flow of the breath, each time your mind wanders bring your focus back to your breath.
The mind will wander, this is totally normal, just notice any thoughts that are present and let them pass, do not engage with them or pass judgment.
When it comes to performing different yoga postures, focus on your alignment and notice how your body feels in each posture (without being distracted or judging), whenever your mind wanders bring your focus back to the posture and the flow of your breath.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
This is a very common yoga posture it increases upper body strength, stretches the muscles in the backs of the legs, helps maintain a long straight spine and aids digestion.
Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Take your weight into your hands as you curl under your toes and lift the knees to from the floor.
Slowly unfold the legs and push the floor away with your hands. Direct your pelvis up and back so that you create a triangular shape with your body and the floor.
Make sure that your weight is distributed evenly between your hands and that both sides of your body are equal in length keeping the spine straight and the hips square. Broaden the upper back and draw the shoulders away from the ears.
Breathe slowly in and out through your nose whilst engaging the lower abdominal muscles for five or more complete breaths.
“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Swami Sivananda