Mindfulness and Yoga in Stressful Times
Article At A Glance
What a time to be alive. In addition to personal and family issues needing attention, there’s the war, school shootings, inflation, climate change, and a will-it-never-end pandemic to contend with. This is why mindfulness of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors seems particularly relevant these days. This includes mindfulness about showing up for my yoga practice.
But one of the things that get my tights in a twist about mindfulness is that it’s often touted as an easy solution, as if being mindful that gas prices are higher, politicians are being idiots, and my son’s dirty gym socks litter the floor is going to solve anything. Mindfulness is not a magic eraser for problems and suffering. That’s why it gets labeled McMindfulness. It’s not a quick fix, but it sometimes gets packaged that way.
How Mindfulness Reminds Us of Our Values
It is certainly helpful to be mindful, but not in a vacuum. IMHO (In My Honest Opinion), mindfulness is useful when it’s contextualized in terms of values.
What’s great about mindfulness when connected to values is that it helps me separate my feelings from how I want to respond. I can notice my teenager’s snarkiness without reacting in a way that I’ll regret in the morning. I can be mindful that I feel completely drained by the senseless violence in the news and take a walk or a media break to chill out. I can be mindful that I am annoyed by the Cadillac that cut me off on the on-ramp, but I really don’t need to flip off all drivers with Florida plates—though some days I really, really want to.
Mindfulness is useful when it points me back to my values. If I know what’s important in my life if I have a sense of deeper meaning and purpose, a sense of the direction I want to go in, and how I want to show up. Then mindfulness is a powerful tool. Otherwise, mindfulness is just wheel spinning.
Difficult times require strength, courage, and chutzpah. If we want to get through these times and support others, then we need clarity around values. Who am I, why I’m here, how can I help, and how should I use my limited time? When I get clearer about those things, I can use mindfulness to guide my thoughts, words, and actions in a positive direction. I can practice separating who I am from how I am feeling and take the right action in alignment with my values.
Without this context, mindfulness is like gazing into a mirror but having no clue who you are looking at or what you are looking for.
Mindfulness and Yoga Practice
I’ve found that over the past two years it’s been really easy to wake up feeling pushed. Like I have to run to my phone or computer to make sure there are no fires to put out. But when I mindfully keep my values in the front of my mind, then I can remember when I wake up that my practice is what sets me up for navigating the rest of my day with some amount of sanity.
My practice is my priority because of what it does for me. Everything else can wait. I need to prioritize self-care time so that I can show up and be the person I want to be, mindful that I’m not hurting myself or others. And mindful of all the nine other Yamas and Niyamas as well.
Consistent Yoga Practice Isn’t a Quick Fix, But It’s Always Worthwhile
Getting to my mat helps me remember that regardless of what’s happening around me, I have a sense of meaning, purpose, and identity. Practice also reinforces the idea that my time here on this planet is limited, and what I do with that time matters. It reminds me that there are larger forces at work, and I can’t control everything. And it reminds me that my connection to my higher self gives me a stable sense of peace, security, and optimism.
When times get tough, it’s easy to forgo yoga practice. Sometimes I don’t want to feel anything; I just want to make it through another day. But if I apply mindful presence in the moment, I can remember that staying mentally balanced is important for myself and those around me and that things are manageable.
With the mounting crises in the world, I find I have to be even more vigilant about getting to the mat. There’s nothing McDonalds-ish about regular yoga practice. It’s just not quick and easy. It’s time-consuming and can be difficult to prioritize. This is why it’s completely worth the effort.