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Have you always wanted to try meditation, but have trouble sitting still? Many people practice meditation because it is a form of mindfulness. It’s a way to slow down the mind, move inward, and train the mind to focus on a single point. But how about yoga? Can your yoga practice also be a way to practice mindfulness?
So is yoga a form of mindfulness? Yes. Practicing yoga is definitely a form of mindfulness. Your yoga practice can encourage you to be present in every breath and every posture. Yoga is a great way to connect your mind, body, and spirit.
Yoga is a wonderful way to practice being fully aware and present in each moment. Ever tried to balance in Tree Pose while thinking about your laundry list of errands? It’s tough to breathe through your practice if your mind is elsewhere! Yoga poses bring attention and awareness to your body and teach you to breathe through the discomfort. Yoga turns into a mindfulness practice when these practices translate off the mat and into the real world.
What is the Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation?
Before we dive into how yoga can be a form of mindfulness, it’s a good idea to define the difference between meditation and mindfulness is. Sometimes the two are used interchangeably, though they are both very separate and different.
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a practice where you transform your mind by moving inward and practicing a single point of focus. You can focus simply on your breath, cultivating a feeling of love, or practicing gratitude. People practice meditation for greater clarity and concentration, to promote a sense of calm in the entire body and mind, or for spiritual purposes.
- What does meditation look like? Usually, mediation takes the form of a still body either sitting on a cushion or chair or laying down. Your eyes can be closed or slightly open, and as your body settles into the present moment, your mind starts to settle. Keep your spine straight and your body comfortable as you meditate.
- How do people meditate? Guided meditations or group meditation classes are popular and can easily be found online or in studios. You can also practice on your own at home, focusing on a single point and slowing down your mind. Some meditations include meditations focusing on the breath, mantras, your inner guide, love, or even the practice of mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is intentionally taking in the full experience of the present moment. When you are completely aware of what is going on in the moment and fully present in the “now”, you are practicing mindfulness.
- How do I practice mindfulness? Mindfulness involves being fully present in each moment. Sometimes your mind may attach itself to the future or the past, causing you to not be completely present in the moment. Mindfulness involves experiencing the present moment completely without attaching to it or passing any judgment about it.
- Where do I practice mindfulness? You can practice mindfulness anywhere and at any time. For example, next time you are in a stressful moment, notice if you react right away and pause instead. Be mindful of your reaction and tap into how your body feels. Take yourself back to your body and the present moment by taking a deep breath.
Why Should I Practice Mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness is a great daily habit to get into. It has many benefits for you and all those you interact with on a daily basis. It can improve the overall quality of your life and can lead to a greater sense of connection to yourself and to the world. Finding little moments throughout your day to practice mindfulness will improve many areas of your life, as well as improving your relationships and your productivity.
Though you can practice Mindfulness off of your mat, you can also do so on your mat. Taking a yoga class and practicing yoga is a wonderful way to generate mindfulness. When you are able to practice Mindfulness while on your mat, it may be easier to practice it off of your mat. Instead of reacting right away, you can take a deep breath and remind yourself to be mindful of your reaction.
Benefits of Mindfulness
When you start to practice mindfulness, you may begin to see and feel changes in and around you. Mindfulness can put you more in touch with your internal world and your reactions, and the practice of mindfulness has many benefits. Mindfulness can:
- Reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger
- Lower your blood pressure
- Improve your overall health, attention span, patience, self-esteem, memory, emotional reactions, listening skills, sleeping patterns
- Increase your focus and concentration, awareness, confidence, self-control
- Cultivate gratitude, compassion, creativity, connection
Practicing Mindfulness During Yoga
When you are guided by a teacher in a studio or a video during your yoga practice, you may not realize that your teacher will almost always guide you into a state of mindfulness. At the beginning of practice, they may guide you to be more conscious of your breath, and throughout the class, they may remind you to check in with your body and the sensations that you may feel.
Practicing yoga brings you into the present moment, and when you are guided by an experienced teacher, you can be brought into a deeper state of mindfulness. Your teacher’s cues and directions, reminders about your breath, encouragement to stay present during moments of discomfort are all geared toward mindfulness. So next time you hear your teacher say, “Check in with your body and your breath”, use it as an opportunity to practice Mindfulness.
Tips for Practicing Mindfulness During Yoga
Want to be a bit more mindful while you practice yoga? Though your yoga teacher may naturally guide you into a state of mindfulness, you can also keep a few things in mind during your practice.
Here are some tips to help you practice Mindfulness:
- Leave your gadgets out of your practice space: Social media, cellphones, and tablets are great but can be super distracting. Keep your practice space free of distraction by keeping your gadgets outside of the studio.
- Set a small goal: Setting an intention before your practice can help you to be more mindful throughout the class. It can be something as simple as listening to your body or focusing on your exhales during class.
- Let go of any expectations: Try not to hold yourself to anything during your practice. Live and breathe in each moment and appreciate the ebbs and flows of your practice.
- Notice your body each a new pose: When moving your body into your yoga poses, take note of how your body feels in each shape. Notice if you can be mindful without judgment or without creating a story around how you are feeling.
- Let go of comparison: Each body and every practice is different. Let go of comparing yourself and your practice to others and focus solely on yourself.
- Notice your emotions: There are moments in your yoga practice where emotions may come up. Notice them and try not to attach onto them– simply be mindful of what comes up.
Everyday Mindfulness Exercises
You can practice Mindfulness even if you are not on your yoga mat or meditation cushion. Anything can be done mindfully as long as you are putting your full attention and intention on the moment in front of you. Work on staying in the present as much as possible and try not to get frustrated or give up if you find your mind wandering – remember it is a practice.
Here are some ways you can practice Mindfulness in your day-to-day life:
- Check-in with yourself: Do this a few times a day and take 5 deep breaths. Notice how you feel and stay present with the feelings and sensations that arise.
- Make a gratitude list: List 5 things you are grateful for in your journal or in your mind. This takes you into the present moment and out of thinking of the future or the past.
- Eat your meals mindfully: Take note of all the different tastes and textures, and the smell feel of your food, and try not to multi-task while eating.
- Breathe: Pay attention to your breathing throughout the day. Take notice if you are breathing too fast or not taking deep enough breaths.
- Spend time outside: Take a walk in the woods or beach and pay attention to all the details of nature
During your yoga class, you may not be aware that you are practicing Mindfulness – but you definitely are! When you are more mindful of your breath, your reactions, your body, and your emotions while you are on your mat, it can translate to your life off of the mat. A more mindful life can be one of more joy, gratitude, and presence. Next time you are on your mat, be aware of not only your yoga practice but your Mindfulness practice as well!