How to Live Mindfully

Part 1: Developing Mindfulness on a Physical Level

During yoga, we begin our practice with thoughtful consideration of the path before us as we set our highest intention. We learn to carefully place ourselves on our mats. When we move into a pose, such as Trikonasana, we move with thought, purpose, and intent. Each step of our practice radiates purposeful intention and thoughtful movement as we proceed through our asana.   

When practice is complete, we may find that we lose our sense of mindfulness as quickly as we step from the mat. Our controlled and methodic pace suddenly changes to hurried and unfocused. We may find it nearly impossible to keep a calm and focused mindset. As yogis, one of our first lessons should be that mindfulness off the mat needs to be attained first as a physical practice.

Mindfulness as a Physical Practice

Mindfulness as a physical practice means that we consciously engage our mental faculties as we go about our days. For instance, would we find that we could extend our lives by hours, days, or years if we took back the hours we spent searching for misplaced items? Would we make different decisions if we were to give ourselves time to think through any process before taking action? Would we enjoy less stress if we created room in our lives for living mindfully?

Mindfulness, like every other area of yoga, requires development through practice. As we practice mindfulness on the mat, we should use the same process in our day-to-day lives. Starting with a few small and consistent steps, such as pausing to breathe or thinking through a situation, will provide a manageable way to build mental strength and mindfulness. 

Pause and Breathe
Adding a short pause for breath work during a stressful situation is one simple way to start becoming more mindful in our daily lives. Similar to performing a challenging asana, we tend to breath shallowly in our upper chests when we are under stress. Mindful, diaphragmatic breathing helps to calm our emotions and our minds during stressful situations in the same way that it helps us hold a challenging pose. Deeper, slower breathing assists in bringing our heart rates back down and clears up our mental thinking processes by triggering the relaxation response. The adrenal response slows, and we approach the situation in a more mindful way. Taking a few deep breaths requires less than a minute but can dramatically change the outcome of a stressful situation.

We also become more mindful by thinking through a situation before taking action. As we leave our homes for work, we should learn to take a moment to gather our thoughts about our needed items for the day. If we plan to make dinner, do we have all of the ingredients? Have we turned off any appliances that we have used? Do we have keys, yoga clothes, cell phones, and bags? Using a checklist—mental or physical—will help us to become more mindful in our daily lives.

Mindfulness with Objects
Lastly, we begin to develop mindfulness through thoughtful placement of our belongings. Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness—mindless placement of objects will ensure a frantic search for them later, resulting in more stress and less time for other things. Learning to mindfully place objects requires consistent mental effort in the same way that we mindfully place ourselves on our mats. We should take the time to engage our mind as we drop our keys into our coat pockets or leave our cell phones on our desks. As we place any object, we need to first take a moment to stop and engage mentally. The amount of time and energy that we save through thoughtful placement of objects will add up significantly over time. 

Yoga is a wonderful journey that will lead us into a deeper sense of self-awareness if we are willing to travel the path laid before us. Most begin focused on the physical body, but somehow the journey subtly transforms us from the inside as well. Learning to practice mindfulness in a physical way is a huge step forward on this great journey!

To reach part two of this article, click here.

Susan GrossmanSusan Grossman is a yoga teacher based in Warsaw, Indiana. She is a contributing author for three ebooks, including: “Get Fit for Your Pregnancy:  Simple Exercises to Look Great & Feel Energized Through Your Pregnancy,” “Body Sculpting Exercise for Women Over 40,” and “Fat Blasting for a Shapely Butt and Toned Thighs.” She teaches weekly yoga classes at her studio where she works with individuals in the beginning stages of their yoga journey as well as with individuals who are over 70 years of age with mild to moderate health considerations. Susan also instructs kettlebell classes.  


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