Researching mindfulness as part of my final dissertation made me appreciate the many benefits this technique can bring to everyday life. Hence why I decided to work part time as a yoga teacher, as both mindfulness and yoga philosophies go hand in hand. Through this it seemed inevitable for me to use parts of mindfulness within my yoga classes. We occasionally touch on this but last week in class the students developed a more thorough practice of learning the skill of how to apply this during a yoga practice – ‘mindfulness meditation techniques used on the mat’.
Mindfulness meditation is about bringing the awareness to the present moment, of noticing and accepting what is happening right now without judgement or reaction. How we apply this on the mat is you may have experienced in a particular pose, such as Virabhadrasana (Warrior) that as you hold the pose you may notice the front thigh burning, the shoulders holding tension and the breath becoming laboured. The teacher holds you in the pose. You want to come out of the pose as the thigh starts to shake and you feel sensations of impatience, tension or even boredom. Now imagine this – imagine applying the techniques of mindfulness when in Virabhadrasana but instead of reacting you simply observe the thoughts and ongoing sensations and bring awareness back to the breath knowing this moment will pass until the teacher guides you out of the pose. This time you may have noticed less irritation while the thigh is burning and maybe more appreciation of being able to take control of the thoughts by having less judgement and more patience, acceptance and trust.
Students from the Wednesday evening class wrote about their experience of practicing mindfulness mediation on the mat:
‘I usually find it very difficult to empty my mind of outside thought so I had to concentrate very hard but I did manage to stay focussed and was happy that I managed to do so. I didn’t have a feeling of frustration as I just felt that it was part of the practice.’
‘I at first felt a little bit frustrated as I felt I really wanted to just pursue the physical practice. I found it hard to relax until I am pushed physically. However, when holding one of the postures I told myself not so much to focus inwardly on my own thoughts but to try to be mindful, specifically, on what Katherine was saying, I then did feel as if my whole body relaxed a lot more and my frustration seemed to evaporate.’
‘You guided us to breathe and observe our feelings not to judge them but let them go. This kind of allowed us all permission that it is ok to feel comfort or discomfort in practice, breathing and being aware of this but letting it go really improved my focus. I thought we all helped together.’
A link to ‘The Science of Mindfulness’