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April 26, 2017

Mindful in Yoga Class, Mindless Everywhere else? Here’s a Solution.

As a yogi, mindfulness is often the easiest when I am on my mat. It is the goal of every practice, no matter the flow.

In yoga, I think not about my to-do lists or chores, but about my sequence, my body, and my feelings.

Inhale, arms up.
Exhale, hands to heart.
Swan dive.
Forward fold, exhale.
Right leg back to crescent lunge.
Inhale, arms up.

My yoga mat, approximately 2 x 5 feet, is my little zen space. It’s where I let my overactive brain slow down and my natural relaxation and awareness arise. It’s where I open up all the little pockets of emotion I’ve accumulated throughout the day, process them, and truly allow myself to feel.

My present feelings aren’t always pleasant. In fact, most of them are painful to acknowledge. They make me want to squirm in my savasana. But the thing is, if I never acknowledge my feelings, whether good or bad, I can never learn to let them go.

Mindfulness is not always about feeling bliss. It’s about honest awareness, comfortable or not. This kind of awareness is good because it lets us figure our “stuff” out in a gentle way. It challenges us to ask the hard questions: Why do I feel this way? What caused this feeling? How can I react?

Mindful awareness gives us the opportunity to answer those questions, create a game plan, and tap into the rational side of our brains even through intense emotion.

Sounds great, right? The thing is, I often end up asking these questions retrospectively, wondering how I should have reacted. In many ways, I reserve my mindfulness strictly for the yoga mat, losing sight once I walk off it. Going through the rest of my day, it’s like mindfulness isn’t even in my vocabulary.

The more I practice yoga and mindfulness, though, the more I notice their benefits. I am calmer. I think more clearly. I feel open and secure. I feel comfortable with myself and more awake. Simply put, yoga is good for me. Mindfulness is good for me. So I know incorporating them into my daily life would also be good for me.

With this clarity, I have begun to extend mindfulness into more aspects of my life. Ultimately, I want to be mindful more often than not, instead of the other way around. I want to not only have my 10 square feet of zen space, but a whole world of zen space existing all around me, accessible whenever I wish.

Of course, this is easier said than done. So I’m starting small.

I’ll focus on times of the day when I am alone but often mindless, like brushing my teeth and buying groceries. I’ll use those brief periods to evaluate my feelings and my surroundings. I’ll challenge my five senses to send me information one by one for processing.

From there, I’ll move on to walks and car rides, beginning to introduce other animals and human activity into my awareness, recognizing how they affect my thoughts and feelings. The next time I’m in traffic, I’ll use it as a moment of meditation, rather than a moment of frustration. At work, I’ll be aware of how I listen and respond to my coworkers. When I walk with my puppy, I’ll glance around, reminding myself of all I am grateful for.

So much of mindfulness is recognizing our own presence and role. It’s a way to slow down time, giving our brains room to think before acting, and then acting in the healthiest way possible for ourselves and others around us.

I hope a consistent mindfulness practice will evolve into more effective stress management and daily appreciation.

If I can do it on the mat, I can bring it into my world.

And so can you.
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Author: Rowena Kosher 
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Danielle Beutell

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Rowena Kosher