Mindfulness is a secret ingredient to achieving greater health benefits within yoga and other healing modalities.
To an experienced practitioner we understand that the yoga postures, even with their specific names, are only guides along a certain path. A yoga pose is not a finished product. The benefits are revealed during the process. The only thing we seek to obtain is to be 100% present within our body as we move through the yoga postures, opening, strengthening, lengthening, healing, restructuring. Learning to be present to how our body transforms, this is Mindfulness. In any posture, there is always something more that can be transitioned through. Each and every yoga posture holds benefits that exceed our expectations.
What it is we are actually doing in “yoga.” What are the yoga postures all about?
Think of yoga asanas, or postures, as a ski hill. We all go down the same hill. Some take the bunny slope and others take the steeper trails. The hill is the same. This is why you see photos of people in Standing Bow Pulling Pose, some with their back stiff and straight and foot barely over their hip and others with their back nicely curved and leg way up over their head. It’s the same pose just different levels, same beauty. The beauty is that both can have the same amount or lack of mindfulness.
The benefits are the same no matter what level one practices at.
Every advanced posture starts with a basic move. Think of it like the ski hill, learning to stand on your skis is the first step to conquering the hill. Standing on two feet without falling over must be mastered before we practice standing on one leg. We think of it as mindfulness creating clarity for where we are in our endeavors.
Yoga teachers won’t expect you to reach completion, but rather be conscious/ mindful of your movements. This is why all levels of practice benefit the same. Mindfulness keeps us in check.
In every yoga posture there are two forces at work, hence the meaning of Ha-tha, sun and moon. There is strength and flexibility, the agonist and antagonist muscle reactions. One muscle contracts while another, or others in a muscle group, relax. Therefore each pose contains two reactive forces.
Within the yoga poses is also the compression or tourniquet effect. Internal organs muscles and tissue are compressed and squeezed in many yoga postures. The idea is like squeezing and flushing as if ringing out a dirty towel. The compression forces fluid out, and on the release, allows fresh blood to come through. I’ve found these compression aspects to be of very high value in my practice.
No matter how in-depth or uncomfortable a yoga posture is, they all become the same when you approach them carefully with mindfulness. So think of mindfulness in yoga postures like driving your car at night around a blind corner. Going too fast can lead to collision with an unforeseen obstacle. Therefore the approach to each pose should be done with mindfulness.
The proverbial man in meditation IS the clear depiction of yoga.
One pointed focus is what becomes meditation. It’s Inner focus and attention in the moment which provides insights leading to transformation.
I’ve taught beginners who are masters at mindfulness. I’ve also witnessed advanced practitioners become frustrated in their practice from expectation. This becomes our challenge. The path of mindfulness is like a blending of two worlds, of doing and not doing.
Any gymnast or dancer can do “poses” easy. Don’t let people with advanced body movements influence you. It is the process of the pose that defines your level of yoga understanding.
It takes practice….lots of it. By the way, that’s why we call it a yoga “practice.” Keep it up.
For a more in-depth look at this process, please attend one of my new ONLINE YOGA CLASSES beginning in April! For my first students there will be a significant discount for joining.