Be Mindful & Slow Down Your Yoga
You can benefit from slowing down your yoga. You don’t need to move at a snail’s pace. We’re talking about slowing things down just enough that you can focus your mind on what you’re doing.
Much of the time we are moving with a sense of rushing. This rushing is fueled by habits of mind and body. And have you noticed that this rushing itself is rarely completed?
Developing curiosity helps us be mindful. Think of the way a child approaches something new.
I remember offering my son new food when he was a toddler and how he’d experiment with everything. For him eating was a full-body experience.
He didn’t just put the food into his mouth. He poked it and felt it. He pushed it around his highchair tray. He picked it up and dropped it and even listened to how it sounded as he squished it around. He looked at the colours.
Eventually, he would bring the new food to his face, and smell it, and only then maybe taste just a bit at a time. Once he knew everything he could about it, given what he had experienced in those data-gathering moments before, he would smile a broad smile and eat more, or turn his head far to the side in protest.
The way he paid attention to the food and the way he learned everything he could about it, was actually very mindful. He was engaging with the present moment as it happened. He was open-minded as he learned in his own sensory way.
Be Mindfully Childlike
When we slow an activity down and pay deliberate attention to it, we learn. When we slow ourselves down, we can also enjoy and appreciate what we’re doing. When we slow down we can feel again.
Slow down each Yoga pose you do. Slow down any movements you make, just enough so that you can feel the sensations of movement. Slow down just enough that you can take in what is happening as it happens, including hearing sounds as they come forward, noticing scents in the air, and seeing colours and light. Engage childlike curiosity in what you do and experience.
How to Practice When You’re on the Yoga Mat
When you’re on the Yoga mat, feel into the body and take the time to notice everything you can. Stay just within your limits. Don’t create unnecessary tension. Embrace a good stretch. In order to find this place of optimal engagement, you’ve got to slow things down, become curious and pay attention.
When you slow things down and spend time in stillness, the mind has a chance to catch up with the body. Often we don’t slow down because we don’t want to actually feel the strain or pain or discomfort. In that case, we need to slow down particularly so we can take care of ourselves.
When there is discomfort in the moment, be that in a Yoga pose or another part of life, it serves us to be compassionate as we notice what is happening. Mindful awareness is open-minded and compassionate awareness. Using a deliberately mindful approach serves us constantly.
Mindfulness in Life Through Mindfulness in Yoga
By practicing mindfulness within a Yoga posture, you can learn to:
- Feel from within the body rather than ignore the physical body’s signals
- Hear the mind’s commentary more clearly and yet respond less judgmentally
- Remain calmer when the body is stressed or in discomfort, and choose wise action
Releasing harsh judgment, understanding our own mind’s dialogue, and remaining calm when things are difficult, are all extremely valuable skills in daily life.
The fact that this learning from the Yoga mat is so transferable to daily life makes mindful Yoga time worthwhile well beyond the value of a good stretch.