What are we doing when we practice mindful yoga asanas?
The sun was shining this morning, the temperature chilly, but thankfully there was not a hint of a breeze. It was a happy respite from the heavy winds we’ve had over the last few days.
I felt inspired to do a dynamic practice of salutes-to-the-sun–surya namaskar–which included all the standing poses I could think of. I’ve listed the poses at the bottom of this page just in case you’d like to weave them into your next practices.
As a way of practising mindful asanas, I focussed on the physical adjustments I was making in each pose, as well as the sensations in my body. What I noticed was that in just a short time I would lose my concentration. Long before the time I’d set to be in the pose was up, my mind would wander. I would try to catch myself, but as you would probably know, that’s not an easy thing to do. Unbidden thoughts, planning thoughts, judging thoughts, they have a way if pulling me out of the moment. It’s humbling to see how mind chatter will insinuate itself into yoga practice, and then I’m not present any longer.
It is for this very reason we call what we’re doing yoga practice and not performance. There’s never any need to give oneself a hard time because the mind keeps generating thoughts; that’s what minds do. Giving yourself a hard time about it, only gives the mind more power. It comes back to noticing what the mind is up to and welcoming the opportunity to practice being mindful once again.
Three tips to help you concentrate in your practice
- Try to hear your thoughts. Hear the words that are formed in your mind continuously. Become aware of the continuous repetition or stream of thoughts.
- Become a witness to all the images and visualizations that occupy your mind. Avoid getting involved in the content. You needn’t dwell on it, in the same way as you don’t have to buy into day-dreaming. Just witness without judging.
- Become aware of any emotions that arise as a result of your ordinary thoughts. If an emotion comes up, try to step out of the emotion to observe it. Again, just be a witness without judging.
Sequence of standing poses
Tadasana (mountain pose)
Vrshkasana (tree pose)
Garudasana (eagle pose)
Virabhadrasana 1,2,3 (the warriors)
Trikonasana Parvritta Trikonasana (triangle and reverse triangle)
Parsvakonasana and Parvritta Parsvakonasana (side flank pose and reverse side flank)
Ardha Chandrasana and Parvritta Ardha Chandrasana (half moon and reverse half moon)
Parvottanasana (side stretches
Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
Padangusthasana (big toe pose)
Utthita Padangusthasana (extended big toe pose)
Pada Hastasana (hand to foot pose)
Prasarita Padottonasana (wide-leg forward bend)
Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana (standing splits pose)
*Julie Slavin Photography