4 IDEAS TO INTEGRATE MINDFULNESS

You might have read already about it, here on my site or somewhere else, however it’s such an important topic, that I will continue writing about it! Just some main values and ideas today on how to implement the mindfulness approach easily, no matter if into your yoga practice or your daily life as such.

A QUICK RECAP

Mindfulness is being in the present moment without judging; being fully aware of what we are thinking and doing, by keeping our focus on just that. 

WHAT VALUE WOULD YOU PLACE ON…

  • A shift from reacting to acting
  • Reduced distractions
  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased awareness
  • Increased attention and focus
  • Increased clarity in thinking and perception
  • Lowered anxiety
  • Experience of being calm and internally still

4 IDEAS TO INTEGRATE MINDFULNESS INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINES

  1. BE PROUD! Just repeat this phrase mentally again and again and again during the day, as often as possible. What will happen is a shift in your mindset – don’t think about what you are proud of, just be it, feel it! There’s always something to be proud of, don’t care about the details. Not just your mind but also your body will react on it: your posture will improve, your spine will lengthen, your chest lifts, your shoulders will slightly go down and back. You will radiate a positive and confident attitude. Wow!
  2. MOVE YOUR BODY! Of course you do that already when adding the mindfulness approach to your yoga practice. Think of it the rest of the day too! Many of us are sitting all day long, starring at a screen or any other devices. Sitting is said to be the new smoking – move as often as you can. Standing doesn’t do the work, your body needs movement. No need for a workout, just tiny little stretches work perfectly. Sitting or standing – do shoulder stretches, twists, side bends, balance, move the spine and many more. Easy little things that can be integrated without any effort.
  3. BREATHE! One of the most powerful tools with the purpose to either control our prana (life force, life energy) or to heal on a mental and/or physical level. We have loads of great techniques in yoga (so called pranayama) that we can use, however very basic techniques will already do the job, such as equal breathing (count your breath, inhale/exhale for 4) or lengthen your exhales (inhale for 4/exhale for 6) to squeeze your inner organs and get the toxins out. While we are used to breathe in a certain way during the yoga practice (e.g. Ujjayi breath), you can use the described techniques during the day and nobody will even recognize what you’re doing! It will immediately calm you down; do it in a train, car, plane, while waiting in a queue, during meetings, you name it.
  4. BE STILL! Meditation is a great tool to get ourselves into stillness, which is really needed in today’s stressful set up. Many of us struggle with meditation and I suggest to replace the term. Call it whatever works for you, it is just about going into stillness for a moment, you decide if 5 minutes, 30 or anything in-between. Bring your awareness internal, focus on your breath, allow any thoughts to pop up and pass by without giving them any further attention.

Go for it, it will change everything – to the better!

Feel

How do you feel? I’m not after good or bad, but the details. No judgment. Take a moment and close your eyes, bring your attention inside and just do one thing: feel. Start with the easy things, like the temperature. Find different temperature zones in your body. Notice any tension, maybe even pain. You can use your breathe to guide you through your body and continue observing. Can you feel your breath? Your blood? Your veins and arteries? Your inner organs, muscles? Smile. Yes, just do it, smile. Feel the difference. What changed in your body following your lips going up? Now ask yourself: how do I feel? 

Instead of asking yourself if something is right or wrong, good or bad, ask yourself, how does it make me feel? And go from there. This is more important than anything else.

The same approach works in you yoga practice. You need to feel what you do, feel your body, your muscles, fascia, organs and and and. Every movement, every posture has to be felt and yeah, it should feel good! I know, sometimes it’s a bit challenging at the beginning, but again, you’ll find the moment of steadiness and ease, the moment you feel arrived in an asana. Listen to your body. Stop pushing, start feeling. Not saying this is easy, I even think it’s the most difficult part! If you are flexible, you might easily jump into a pretzel, but without that connection to your body, it’s no asana, but just a pretzel. Works for your Instagram account, but meaningless for your practice and your progress.

Start by sharpening your awareness to your feelings and what you feel. All the details! You will learn about your body in a total different way! Do some sun salutations blindfolded. This will support your focus. This can then be replaced with drishti, the focused gaze. It takes practice, as everything, but it will take your practice on a new level!

Just be prepared, that eventually you will never ever be able to answer the question ‚how do you feel‘ with just one word…. 

How to quieten your mind

You can’t? Welcome to the club! To not be able to quieten ones mind is one of the mysteries we tend to believe.

As long as you’re busy trying to calm your mind by getting rid of all thoughts, sorry to tell you, it’s not gonna happen. Well… let’s be more specific: you can calm your mind, but you won’t be able to stop your thoughts of having a party when they feel like it. Even worse, as soon as you feed them, maybe through following them or telling them to leave, they got you.

Instead, ignore them. Let them pass. Don’t give them any attention, but bring your awareness to your breath. No matter if you’re meditating, practicing asanas or just include a little break into your day, it’s a quite good idea to fully focus on your breath. Feel your breath, listen, follow your breath through your body and concentrate just on this. It helps to be fully aware and keep your focus.

If this isn’t enough, you can add a mantra. A short mantra that you recite mentally. This keeps your mind busy and guides your focus. The beauty of a mantra is of course additionally it’s meaning. I like to use Sanskrit mantras, as they require a bit more concentration. Just saying a mantra mentally and repeat, non stop.

I’ve got some suggestions for you, some short mantras I like to use, particularly in meditation:

  • Aham Prema (I am love)
  • Aham Brahmasmi (I am the universe)
  • Sat Shit Ananda (truth, consciousness, bliss)
  • OM Mani Padme Hum (the sound of silence, the jewel in the lotus)
  • OM Ram Ramaya (an invocation to Rama, whose perfection exists in us all, to radiate confidence and strength)

As everything, it’s not just a one shot, but implementing a regular practice!

Let your breath be my music

In yesterdays Ashtanga class I asked my students to concentrate and to keep a strong focus on their breath, bandhas and drishti. I asked them to let each inhale and exhale initiate a movement. I asked them to follow my instructions and even if it’s not their pace, to make it their pace. There’s no such thing as a pause when practicing Ashtanga. We keep the focus, we keep on moving. We flow to the final rest, shavasana.

The stronger the focus the easier it gets to let upcoming thoughts just pass by, to tune in, to find yourself in your own bubble, while the breath of your neighbor yogis constantly confirm the frequency you’re connected to. Be in your body, feel what you are doing, align your body, check in to yourself.

My students yesterday seem to ride the same wave, it was such a precious and beautiful energy – I love your music, let’s play it again!

 

Be proud yogis

My practice is difficult at the moment. Due to a couple of things happening in my life, it was and still is a huge challenge to keep my regular practice. On the mat I’m currently experiencing a lack of balance and focus. Plus a busy mind, terribly noisy. All thoughts just about what part of my practice I might skip. Restless. In a rush.

Today all of a sudden a much stronger thought took my attention: be proud, you showed up! You ARE practicing!

Yogis, this is so true. Even if it’s tough for me right now, I’m practicing. Even if sometimes I skip postures, I’m practicing. Even if my mind doesn’t stop talking, I’m practicing. Even if I don’t feel like, I’m on my mat. And yes, I AM proud.

Whatever is going on in your life yogis, always remember, it’s not about asanas, it’s about practicing. Just show up and practice. Do whatever you can and allow yourself to feel good about it.

Just not tomorrow, it’s full moon — so enjoy your day off 🙂

Slow down 

I recently read an article about the visit of Sharath Jois in the US and him asking the question in class ‘Why you hurrying?’.

I felt caught red-handed. I hurry. All day long, no matter of being on the mat of off. I’m always in a rush, as if I could gain time this way. I’m restless. Too many tasks, too much to do next to my 100% job. Not complaining, as this is what I want, but dealing with it is just sometimes tough. So I need to remind myself, and feel free to join me, if this affects you too:

Yoga is not just the practice on the mat. Yoga is happening all day, 24h. Same rules. Stop hurrying on the mat, jumping from one asana to the next, driven by ‘what’s next’. Same off the mat, while doing one thing, already thinking about your next task? Keep your focus on what you’re currently doing. It’s about being and staying in the moment. Fully aware. This is the only option to put your full passion into it. And finally yogi, the only way to really enjoy what you’re doing!

Instead of labeling yoga as your physical practice, recognize yoga as your inner experience. Extend your physical practice to work on your willingness to be exactly where you are in this moment. Root yourself, find your balance and connect with yourself before moving on. Practicing Ashtanga, you know what comes next, no worries. You know how long your asana practice will be, so take this time. It’s not a competition, not about, ‘I did it in 80 minutes!’. If you have to skip postures or vinyasas for a certain reason, go for it. Always choose a modification if any possible and do what you do fully. Present. As always, your breath is a good indicator, use it wisely and be guided.

Let’s remind ourselves again and again. It’s worth it!