This month’s topic, Yoga for Mindfulness, is right up my alley. I am a long-time believer in the potential for personal greatness when we blur the lines between emotional, physical and spiritual health. Practitioners of yoga have known for millennia what popular Western culture has only begun waking up to in the last few decades. The physical and mental benefits of yoga have been identified and studied, especially as access to the practice has increased.
The emphasis on experiencing each moment as individual, precious, and fleeting is fundamental to the practice of yoga. But guess what: we tend to be pretty terrible at this as a culture.
As I’ve been working on this blog post, I have a million things running through my head. My internal to-do list, my continually running life commentary, every plate I am currently spinning—these are all buzzing. And I LIKE this topic! I light up when talking with people about how moving our bodies can help heal our minds. And I am STILL having a hard time focusing.
Welcome to real life. My experience at this moment is so common it’s almost considered normal. We have gotten so used to redlining our expectations of ourselves and others that feeling stressed just seems like a normal feature of day to day life. But as a psychologist, committed to facilitating wellness, I know how important it is to take a deep breath and retake the helm of my experiences. So how have I practiced what I preach in these past few moments? I stopped for a second and considered that the point of this discussion topic is to remember that to be the best version of ourselves in any given moment, we have to actually live in that moment. So where does yoga enter this frazzled picture?
For me, the most obvious benefit of participating in yoga is the very fact that you are taking this little chunk of time for yourself. For this period of time, you are making yourself the top priority. You aren’t responding to an email from a colleague, emptying the dishwasher, editing a document, or giving anyone a snack. More subtle benefits of yoga include the skills you learn and practice as a yogi. Breathing deeply and efficiently; respecting, strengthening, and listening to your body; calming the mind and experiencing each moment separately and reverently.
All of these skills add up to this elusive concept that is actually so important to master: mindfulness. My ability to put my continually running life commentary on mute and focus on writing this piece has really been put to the test. This has taken quite a bit of practice to be able to do. But like most people, I had to be taught this skill. And I’ve had topractice. And practice. And practice. But life is generous and gives us lots of opportunities to practice the skills we need the most.
As I say so frequently, you deserve to live your best possible life. Make yourself a priority to learn and practice the mental skills that will beautify your life. Mindfulness is one of these skills. And yoga is a great way to learn and practice.
By: Susana Q Marikle, PsyD