Mention Yoga and the impression that most have is gravity-defying (and sometimes almost contortionist-like) poses, meditation, and being zen.
Many practitioners (even experienced ones!) tend to focus heavily on the physical practice – or asanas – of yoga. In fact, asanas only form out of the eight limbs of yoga (I will not cover 8 limbs of yoga in this post – but it is good reading if you would like to have a more holistic understanding of the yoga practice beyond the physical practice). No doubt asanas are fun; you feel a very tangible sense of achievement when you accomplish a pose, but my biggest takeaway from practising yoga for more than 5 years is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist philosophy that was eventually also adopted by clinical psychologists as therapy for depression sufferers. In Pali this is known as Sati, or Samma-Sati (right-mindfulness). In mandarin the word 念/正念 is used to refer to Sati or Samma-Sati. I am especially intrigued by the mandarin character for mindfulness. The character 念 comprises of the characters 今 and 心 which means today and heart respectively. Today – what are you feeling – how are you feeling, and the characters couldn’t be more apt for describing mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the here and the now.
The term mindfulness is often associated with yoga and it’s not surprising to see why. Physical poses require mental tenacity as much as they require strength. To maintain a pose or asana, especially challenging ones, require you to focus your mind on the here and the now. Same goes for meditation and pranayamas. To maintain steady, controlled breathing, in a stationary pose, you will need to focus on the here and the now, and throw all distractions out of your mind. Mindfulness also helps prevent injuries to some extent – by focusing and recognising on how your body is feeling here and now, you can choose to adjust your practise accordingly to protect yourself.
Now outside of yoga, I practise mindfulness too – I focus a lot on how my emotions here and now, and how they may affect my decision-making and how I react. By practising mindfulness, it has helped me to become more aware of everything that’s around me here and now – and awareness nurtures appreciation and gratitude. I am thankful for a healthy and injury-free body to practise yoga. I am thankful for the opportunities to be exposed to yoga, and to have access to yoga and even train to become a teacher. I am thankful.
200 Hour YTT Oct’20