This week’s blog entry is written by guest author Jayde Pryzgoda. Jayde is a 200-hour graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Long before I encountered teachings on mindfulness meditation, I found yoga. My first classes were seemingly magical experiences where my worried mind and tense body became focused, strengthened, and relaxed. By the end of class I was transformed: lighter and freer from my daily burdens.
Four years later, I was sitting in a graduate school class, my eyes closed, attempting to observe and “label” my thoughts. This, I was told, is a form of mindfulness: the art of paying attention to present experiences (body sensations, emotions, thoughts, surroundings, people, etc) without judgment and without immediate reaction. This was hard, and frustrating, and I didn’t feel lighter or freer from anything! And yet the more I learned about mindfulness, the more I found a sense of vibrancy and liveliness that is only found in the present moment (never in getting lost in the past or spinning your mind over what has yet to come).
But there were and are obstacles (both in mind and body): restlessness, agitation, sleepiness. You see, while this “art of paying attention,” is something you can bring to everything you do (from washing the dishes to laughing with friends), training in mindfulness often takes the form of quiet, seated meditation. And if you’ve ever tried quiet, seated mediation, you know that it can be everything but quiet inside!
Heading back to yoga school, I learned that “yoga” means “to yoke” or “to unite;” sometimes interpreted as the union of body, breath, and mind. And this union requires dedication to practicing various methods for quieting the mind and body. Methods such as asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation all work together to help us “unify” our body, breath, and mind in this present moment. What could be more mindful?
I also learned that there are traditions of yoga, including Viniyoga, that encourage the use of asana and breathing as preparation for more formal seated meditation. And sure enough, I’ve found that starting with movement, and incorporating breath with my movement not only prepares me for seated mindfulness meditation, it is a form of mindfulness in its own right. Practicing bringing my full attention to my breath and body, focusing my attention on feeling the interaction of breath and movement: these are the best ways I have found so far to gently encourage my mind to stay in the present moment with my body. Meditation still comes with obstacles, but with mindful yoga, I feel more prepared to meet them.
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