Recently, at the end of a mindful yoga session, a student stopped on her way out of class to tell me that directly feeling the relationships between her different muscles and how they moved was really helping her. Curious about what exactly she was finding beneficial, I asked her to say more...
She explained that, by paying attention to relationships between her different movements, she had gained confidence that she could safely move in certain ways even though she had recently been injured in a fall. She found that she could give the work of movement to her bones and healthy muscles, and so avoid over-taxing the muscles that had recently been impacted.
The conversation got me thinking about the various kinds of helpful life skills that we can learn and develop through mindful yoga. I decided to make a short list:
Awareness of the Body – we practice this every time we connect attention to the body to feel where it is in space or to place it in a certain position. Awareness of the body can help us stay connected to the present moment and avoid getting utterly lost in our ideas and imaginings.
Confidence in our Ability to Move Safely – whenever you approach an edge in a yoga position, or come to a place you aren't sure you can be in, you have chance to develop this confidence, which comes, interestingly not from trying to push past that edge, but from a willingness to be with it, and even to back out of it if that seems most appropriate.
What Strength Actually Feels Like – when we engage with more active poses, we get a chance to bring awareness to our body's experiences of strength. It doesn't matter how strong you are; we all have some degree of physical strength, and feeling it directly during a mindful yoga practice can help us remember to value and engage that strength appropriately whenever we need to lift something or exert somehow.
What Relaxation Actually Feels Like – a friend once told me that when he can't fall asleep, he tries to remember exactly and in great detail what the experience of falling asleep really feels like. Yoga (especially well-structured classes appropriate for the people participating) can give us deep experiences of relaxation, usually at the end of class during savasana or meditation, that we can use in a similar way. We can recall and extend this relaxation into our lives.
These are a few of the learnings that a mindful yoga practice can offer. I am curious if you can think of others you have experienced and would love to hear about them if you care to share. You can contact me here.