Use Mindfulness to Enhance Your Yoga Experience

Thomas Hlubin

Coach

Bodybuilding, Hypertrophy, Personal Training

Fitness, anxiety, focus, music, body awareness, breathing, mindfulness, yoga

 

Yoga can be a beautiful experience that can significantly enrich the life of the participant within the first asana they perform. The peace of mind and serenity that yoga can bring allows the user to attain a greater sense of control over their life, as well as aid in building resiliency. 

 

 

These benefits come largely from the mindfulness aspect of yoga. Mindfulness is merely a state of mind where you’re aware of the present moment. Past worries and future concerns have no merit in such a state of mind. 

 

Mindfulness and yoga go hand-in-hand. If you are already practicing yoga, then you are already practicing mindfulness. From focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of each breath, to being aware of the way gravity affects your body during your yoga postures, yoga is the epitome of mindfulness in motion.

 

Mindfulness Techniques for Your Yoga Practice

Today I’d like to provide you with some practical examples of how you can intentionally utilize mindfulness to enhance your yoga experience to give you a calmer, more peaceful mind.

 

Focus on the Breath

Breathing plays a significant role in yoga. It’s often used as an anchor to keep the yogi in the present moment, and is a staple among yoga studios for good reasons. When you tap your mind into the physical sensations of the inhale and exhale and truly focus on the process, anxiety ceases to manifest. Worry and strife have no place on the yoga mat. All that matters is that you enter a state of being-mind (not emotion-mind), and mindfulness can help you to attain this.

 

Body Awareness

Be aware of how your body feels, without feeling the need to change it. Observe how your muscles stretch during your poses and transitions between poses. Notice which muscles lengthen and shorten, and which muscles isometrically contract. If tightness or stress manifest, all you want to do is be aware of them, while being nonjudgmental about the information your body gives you. Likewise, if you feel comfort and relief in your muscles (which is inevitable), then simply be aware of these sensations. This awareness will help pull you into the present, and away from any acrimonious thoughts or fears as you perform your yoga postures.

 

Feel Gravity

Become aware of the pressure on the bottom of your feet as your weight rests upon them during your asanas. Notice if the weight is more on the ball of your feet, or if it’s more on the heel. Is there more pressure on the left side of the foot or on the right side? Follow the same process if you’re lying prone or supine, on your knees, or sitting. You may be surprised how being aware of the way gravity affects your body can enhance your yoga experience. 

 

Get Lost in the Music

Playing music as you go through your yoga poses can not only enhance the overall experience, but can also be a catalyst to bring you to the here and now. There’s no rule of what type of music you should listen to. Simply ensure that it’s something that will allow you to drift into a state of awareness and openness. Don’t try to hear the music around you, but let the music come to your awareness naturally. 

 

Smell the Aroma 

Lighting candles or incense during your yoga session is another effective way to enter into the present moment. Try being aware of the way the candle smells as you inhale and exhale. Don’t judge the scent, but simply be aware of it and the effect it has on your mood. This technique can enhance your focus on breathing. Combining techniques (senses) is a great tool for approaching mindfulness much more quickly than by doing them one at a time.

 

Yoga Is for the Mind and Body

Don’t harbor any unrealistic expectations for yourself when it comes to practicing these techniques. Being mindful isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of practice to truly master. Be that as it may, you will find that practicing mindfulness during your yoga session will help you feel more relaxed, and grant you a greater peace of mind when you have finished.

 

This is not to say that all of your worries and doubts will dissipate once you practice these skills. The mind gets used to all of the “mental chatter,” so it is expected that even when you practice these techniques, you’ll still slip back into your habitual thoughts. This isn’t a bad thing, and you shouldn’t try to resist these thoughts. Simply allow them to enter in and out of your mind, as if they were clouds passing in the sky. Once you find yourself lost in thought, simply return to your mindfulness techniques as you go through your yoga postures.

 

Repetition of these techniques will allow you to break the habit of constantly dwelling on worries and fears, and help you form a new habit of calmness and acceptance. This will allow you to have a much more effective yoga experience, and also enhance your life and overall well-being.

 

The best method for self-efficacy is application. Implement these techniques in your next yoga session, and you’ll begin to see just how powerful your senses truly are as you begin to enter into the present moment.

 

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