There are many reasons to practice yoga. There are lots of reasons why I practice yoga but my main reason is to practice becoming more present. Mindfulness and being present is my most important value not just in my yoga practice but in my life. That is because if I am not present I am not fully able to engage in anything else. I can love more fully, I can enjoy life more, I notice more, the list is endless.
We were discussing this in my last workshop because sometimes yoga can seem like its always about advancing in the yoga poses. This is just another form of materialism and doesn’t really lead to any lasting peace. Of course there is joy from achieving something you have worked hard to achieve. There is also a fantastic shift that happens when you realize that with practice you can transform your body or indeed other aspects of your life. These are some of the other wonderful benefits of the practice.
I think some people imagine that people who are more present are in some kind of state of bliss. They maybe feel that it is easy for them, the way we can look at others practicing advanced yoga poses and not see the decades of daily practice but just the flexible body and think how lucky they are.
Being present isn’t always easy. I have been practicing it for many years now, through my yoga practice, meditation and my life and I still find it challenging. The practice has made me better at it but not perfect. Being present isn’t just something that happens on the mat but the time on my mat gives me a focused part of my day in which to tune in and to train my mind. Sometimes my mind is busy, sometimes my mind is calm. Good things and bad things happen to everyone all the time. It’s easier to sit with bliss than with pain but if we run from pain then we could feed it with our thoughts.
When I practice on my yoga mat it isn’t always easy. Sometimes my mind doesn’t want to be in the present but after many years of practicing I have learnt some techniques which have helped me.
- Don’t judge yourself. Judging your mind for being noisy or yourself for being emotional is feeding the pattern. It is neither good nor bad it just is. Acknowledge that the mind is noisy but don’t dwell on it.
- Take each breath as it comes, the breath is a very real and present experience, become aware of it. This is true all the time but if you are struggling it can really help you to just focus on each breath one at a time as you practice.
- If you start thinking about something and get lost in it. As soon as you notice bring your awareness back to the breath.
- If you are going through a difficult experience focus on what is actually happening rather than what could happen in future. Often this is less overwhelming even in a crisis. If there is pain allow yourself to feel it. Being present isn’t about suppression or perfection it’s about being here.
How do you practice being more present? Do You find it challenging? What has helped you?