How mindfulness ‘switched on’ my yoga practice

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Mindful yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga for 15 years, but today it was different.

At the end of class, while we were all lying in corpse pose, resting as usual, the teacher said something that suddenly struck a chord with me.

“Now bring yourself back into the room.”

For the past year I’ve been doing a teacher training course in the Alexander Technique with Peter Nobes.

Peter emphasises being present, alert, lively – above all else – all the time. He calls it ‘mindfulness in action’.

I suppose Peter is starting to rub off on me because when I heard the yoga teacher, I thought, “But I never left the room”.

Though that is exactly what I had been doing with my yoga practice.

I was using the space as a refuge from all the worries, stress, and hassle of my daily life.

I was using my yoga classes to switch off.

But today I didn’t do that.

Instead of trying to get away from my life, I brought it with me into the studio.

I’ll give you an example.

I had been feeling a bit nervous going in, because I hadn’t registered for the class ahead of time and that means if there isn’t enough room, I might be turned away.

I put my name on the waiting list and sat down.

While I waited, I pictured my nervousness as a thing that was right there with me. Instead of trying to leave it outside, I consciously brought it with me into the waiting room. I even pictured it sitting on one of the cushions on the floor.

My homework from the previous night’s Alexander class had been to practice staying alert.

So, while I waited to hear if there would be a space for me in the class, I looked around the room, paying attention to the textures in everything I could see, listening to the music and gentle chatting of the other people waiting, and smelling the incense from the burner on the reception desk.

I was being ‘in the room’.

When I did get a space in the class (hooray!), I took my awareness to my yoga mat.

I felt the texture of the mat beneath my fingers and toes. I listened to the music playing. I smelled the sweat in the air from the previous class.

As the class proceeded, I even felt the air in the room get heavier with the effort of my class.

As I hadn’t been in class in a while, I wasn’t feeling my best, but I allowed myself to do only what I could without getting annoyed or frustrated or ‘trying’ to do more.

Paying attention to the here and now stopped me from entertaining the usual mind chatter that I often bring with me into class. It allowed me to just appreciate where I was and what I was doing with out any evaluation.

By the end of class, I felt so happy and ‘in the room’ that I even complimented the woman next to me on her amazing practice.

Where before, I’d have rolled up my mat quietly and left quickly, likely beating myself up a bit for not being up to my usual standards, this time, I was able to enjoy her amazing practice for what it was – full stop.

It’s the happiest yoga class I can remember in recent memory. And I actually didn’t ‘do’ very well pose-wise.

But keeping myself ‘in the room’ the whole time made all the difference.

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