Most of us could use a little help living in the present moment, couldn’t we? We spend much of our time planning, re-planning, and evaluating what we have done, moving back and forth between the past and the future. We forget that life is now and this is the time to live it. This is why I have chosen mindfulness as my first benefit of yoga.
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way. On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” So how does yoga help us do this?
By pairing our body movements with our breath, with our focus on our breath and body sensations arising as we practice, we train ourselves to stay present in the moment. This is not always as easy as it sounds when we are on the mat and our burning thighs, tight hamstrings and the blood rushing to our head as we are in downward facing dog are screaming for our attention. And this is of course the day the teacher decides to do long holds. But these are the perfect times to practice mindfulness, continuing to bring our attention back to the breath whenever it starts to wander.
There are teachers who combine their training in Buddhist mindfulness meditation with yoga with a special focus on mindfulness. This is of course helpful, but you can begin on your own by focusing on the breath as you move through the yoga poses.
Mindfulness is something that is learned. Yoga is one way we can learn it. So next time you go to the yoga mat leave the busyness of your day and the to-do list for later behind. Breathe. Move with breath. Focus on the breath and any body sensations that arise. It can take time for mindfulness to become a natural part of life, but start on the yoga mat and you are on your way.