Like all types of exercises, yoga can build your strength, endurance and flexibility. It can also improve your heart health. Sometime, when you’re doing yoga, just like many forms of exercise, all that is going through your mind is “Please, let me make it one more minute before I drop in exhaustion.” There are all types of yoga, with some focusing on the physical aspects of movement and others focusing more on mindfulness.
What is mindful yoga?
The name says it all. Mindful yoga combines the movements of yoga with the practice of mindfulness—the practice of being aware at the moment of our feelings, thoughts, sensations and environment in a kind non-judgmental way. It’s the removal of the shoulds and shouldn’ts, rights and wrongs, past and present, focusing on the now. Mindful yoga combines that focus on the now with the over 5,000 year old practice of yoga asanas, one of the parts of ancient yoga.
Using yin yoga poses, like the shoelace pose, are good for practicing mindfulness.
As noted, there are all types of yoga. Yin yoga, a slower paced, calming style that is good for people of all levels of fitness, is the type of yoga that most people combine with mindfulness. One pose, called the shoelace pose. It starts in a seated position with knees bent and legs crossed one atop the other, feet touching the opposite hip, the right foot crossed toward the left hip and the left foot toward the right, so your legs look like a tied shoelace. Bend forward and hold as you focus on the moment.
The tree pose is often associated with yoga and good for mindfulness.
The Vrikshasana—tree pose, which is sometimes called the stork pose—is a way to find balance in the body and extremely comfortable once your body is in the right position. Shift your weight to your left leg, then lift the right leg until the thigh is parallel to the ground. Turn the right foot so the sole is toward the left inner thigh to create a triangle. Once you find your balance, bring your hands to your heart. As you’re getting into position, focus on each and every small movement and how it affects your body.
- If the shoelace pose has you tied up in knots and the tree pose just “wooden” happen, try samshiti—the most basic pose. It focuses on standing with good alignment of the body and equalizing energy.
- If you want to test your flexibility and lengthen your spine, while stretching the legs, the seated forward bend is a good mindful pose. You sit with legs extended, then bend attempting to touch the toes, so the top half of your body is over the legs.
- If you go to the gym, you’ll recognize the anjaneyasana as a low lunge, but you arch your body and lift your hands and head toward the sky, stretching your body as much as possible as you go down to low lunge position.
- My favorite pose for relaxation and mindfulness is the child pose, but you can use any pose that feels comfortable and relaxes you. Those mentioned are just good places to start if you’re practicing mindfulness.
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