Dr. Avi Nov
Mindfulness is a tremendous healing tool and an incredible transformation instrument. Combining mindfulness and yoga offers deeper insights into the true self and it can change your life in all aspects. In this article, I explain the practice of Mindful Yoga.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is basically the focusing of the attention on a particular aspect. Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, knowen as the father of mindfulness, explains that Mindfulness is the paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.
The term "mindfulness" refers also to the practices that promote awareness. Several disciplines and practices may cultivate mindfulness, such as yoga and meditation. While it might be promoted by certain practices, such as meditation, it is not equivalent to or synonymous with them.
What are the benefits of Mindfulness?
The direct and immediate benefit of mindfulness is the feeling of happiness and contentment. According to recent medical research, there are other numerous benefits of practicing mindfulness including, the increased concentration, memory, immunity to colds and diseases, reduction in chronic pain, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a practical training program that assists people with stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Combining Mindfulness and Yoga
Yoga and mindfulness are interrelated because the aim of both is to achieve a higher level of connection and awareness. Actually, yoga without being mindful cannot be called yoga. Both yoga and mindfulness have the main purpose to quiet the mind, in order to cultivate a deeper connection to the self. They both teach you to tune into your breath, pay attention to bodily sensations, and learn to accept reality as it is in that moment and the stories that you tell and believe in.
Mindfulness, in my opinion, is the core practice of yoga. Yet, many yoga teachers stress the alignment aspect while ignoring the mindfulness part. True, the alignment of a yoga posture is very important, but when you add mindfulness to it, you reach a very high level in your practice.
What is the benefit of Mindful Yoga?
By practicing mindfulness and alignment systematically, it is possible to identify specific behaviors and make changes. One example is the identification of behaviors such as grasping for the outcome of a certain pose. Another example is the avoiding of certain poses altogether, or completely zoning out from the yoga practice. In practicing Mindful Yoga, we learn to become intelligently aware of habitual patterns of reactivity. For example, do you hold your breath when going deep into a twist? Do you become agitated or angry during challenging poses, such as pincha mayurasana and wish for them to be over?
In addition, practicing Mindful Yoga encourages patience and discourages reactivity. This can be seen in all areas of your life, including relationships, social life and work. The better sense of patience can make conflicts easier to solve, as with practice, we learn to stop and reflect before we react, according to our patterns.
How do we practice Mindfulness Yoga?
When you practice Mindful Yoga, it is advisable to scan the body and be on the lookout for the many ways in which your perspective on your body, thoughts, and whole sense of self can shift when you change postures and stay in them for some time, paying full attention from moment to moment. Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn explains that “Practicing in this way enriches the inner work enormously and takes it far beyond the physical benefits that come naturally with the stretching and strengthening”.
A good place to start practicing Mindfulness Yoga can be in Tadasana, also known as “Mountain Pose.” Tadasana is the foundation for all standing postures. It is an excellent posture to assist you bringing awareness to all areas of the body, as well as the mind.
If you want to experience with us Mindfulness Yoga, you are welcome to join us in one of our yoga retreats. See here the list of upcoming retreats.