The practice of yoga brings multiple benefits to body, mind and soul ; however, in order to experience them it is essential to practice with full attention. Whether you are practising at home, following an online class, or going to a studio class, bringing mindfulness to the mat will upgrade your yoga experience to a complete new level allowing you to absorb the benefits of the practice.
A definition of mindfulness
A great definition of full attention or mindfulness is:
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).” – James Baraz
How to prepare to practice with full attention
1. Cover your primary needs
Drink plenty of water, go to toilets, eat (but not too much and not too close to the time you are going to practice)… Do all of these things before the class so that once you put the feet on your mat you can forget about ordinary needs.
2. Be comfortable
Always choose to be comfortable when you hit the mat.
– Mat: choose a mat that fits your practice. If you know the studio mats are slippery and you are not going to be able to focus, bring your own or maybe a towel.
– Clothes: choose comfortable clothes where you can freely move and breathe but that are not to loose (that annoying T-shirt that keeps rolling up your spine and covering your face when you are in downward facing dog is not a good option!)
– Others: if some essential oil or incense will make you more aware, use it.
3. Commit 100%
If you are doing yoga, you ARE doing yoga. Perhaps you think: “Alright, I am going to sit on the mat, think about my to-do list and do some stretches”, this is not yoga. You need to find a motivation that will help your will to work body AND MIND. Why do you want to practice yoga? Be faithful to your motivation and don’t let other feelings or laziness win. You are brave and you will thank you at the end.
When the mind starts wandering give it just one thing to do: breath. Inhale and exhale through the nose engaging the glottis and activating your warrior/yogi breath or Ujjayi pranayama. Make your exhales longer than your inhales to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, the calm – relax – digest part of the nervous system.
If at any point in the practice you feel the monkey mind starts jumping from one tree to the other, simply call it back and remind it to breath.
5. Respect your body
Usually in vinyasa classes we are given options or progressions of asanas according to different levels of practice. The ego will want to go for what thinks it’s the most difficult of the options, therefore perturbing the mind and making us lose focus and concentration. If you are in an impossible version of an asana where you can’t even breath, how are you going to be mindful?
Go back, find your edge, a place where the comfortable starts to be uncomfortable, a place where you can breath… and stay there.
DON’T PRACTICE YOGA, BE YOGA.