“Yoga takes you into the present moment. The only place where life exists.”
The mind loves to run off in different directions: one minute following a thought of plans for the upcoming weekend; the next moment replaying an argument with a spouse, a friend, or a colleague from 2 weeks ago. One moment pulling you in this direction, the next moment in that direction.
“And if it is my mind doing the pulling”, you say, “it must be important business! Business that I must think about and take care of.”
But is it, really? What has happened in the past cannot be changed. You can mull over situations, or things you have said that may have worked out extremely well for you, or things that have gone very poorly. It is in those poor situations, that you may more often get ‘stuck’. Your mind will replay that situation in an endless loop.
That kind of ‘thinking’ can become worry, and obsessive worry can lead to depression. Worry is an important process, so long as it does not become incapacitating. Worry keeps us alive and has done so over the course of humankind’s history. It encouraged our ancestors, as it does us, to protect ourselves from danger.
So when you find yourself preoccupied with a worrying thought, this is when you need to take the reins! Stop the loop, reflect on what it was about that situation that did not go well, and think about how you would do it differently the next time a situation like that comes up.
Learn from your mistakes. Do you need to apologize for your actions or your words? Do it! You do need to forgive yourself for whatever you did that has created these obsessive thoughts. Forgive yourself and move on.
At other times your mind may be preoccupied with the future. “What will happen if…I don’t get that job?” “How will I ever … get everything accomplished at work before that deadline?” “What if I don’t make enough money… to pay all the bills?”
Constant worry about the future can lead to anxiety. If it makes sense, think through the the situation and make a plan of action. Take the reins and use your worry effectively.
With your mind always wanting to run back to the past or skip off to the future, how do you live in present? One way is by focusing your mind on the breath and practicing yoga.
Yoga is about connecting the breath with your movement. It’s about acknowledging your body and what it is able to do at any any given moment, being comfortable with that, honouring that, and then challenging yourself, as you see and feel fit (pun intended!).
I always start a yoga practice with meditation. It helps to calm the mind and bring it into the present moment, so let’s start there.
To start sit in a chair, or if you feel up to it, sit on the floor on a pillow or meditation cushion, slightly raising the hips above your leg and feet. Sit in “easy pose’ (legs crossed), sit tall, elongate your spine, slightly bow your head. Your hands can rest on your knees, palms down to ground yourself, or palms facing up, accepting energy from the universe.
Begin by taking some long deep breaths, inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth. We will call these ‘cleansing breaths’. Take about 5 or 6 cleansing breathes – there is no right or wrong, only what feels right to you. After your cleansing breathes, you may wish to allow your eyes to close. You can keep them open, with a soft gaze. Open eye meditation is called Mindfulness Meditation or Shamatha. The principle behind the open eyes is to be aware of the present moment. If this is too overwhelming or distracting, gently close your eyes.
Bring your attention to your breath, notice your inhales and exhales, feel the breath as it enters through your nostrils, fills your lunges and expands your belly. As you exhale, feel your lungs as they relax and the air as it passes out through your nostrils. Continue to focus on your breath.
Your mind will wander, that is a given, and it’s okay. You may become lost in a thought for seconds or minutes at a time, when you notice your mind has wander off, simply guide it gently back to your breath. “Gently” is the operative word in that sentence. There is no getting angry with yourself or feeling frustrated. This is what meditation is: placing the mind (on the breath), noticing it has wandered, and gently guiding it back to the breath. Think of a child who has wandered off the path, into the forest, which holds animals, trees, birds, and flowers. All of these exciting and beautiful sites capture the child’s attention at one time or another, and likely many times as you walk along the path together, but you take the child’s hand and gently guide her back to the path. This is how you guide your mind back to your breath.
Try this seated meditation for 2 to 3 minutes. Over the course of a week, try to mediate 3 to 4 times and extend the time you practice to 5 minutes. See how that feels. I hope it feels great! Please let me know!
Over the course of the week, when you are engaged in everyday activity and notice that you are caught up in thoughts, bring your attention to your breath, even for a minute. This will help you to refocus, get back on track and pay attention to the present – the only place where life exists!
Next time, we will start to warm up the body!