The HUM HOME PRACTICE is Mindfulness Yoga: yoga and meditation grounded in mindfulness and forged into one powerful, transformational practice.
So what exactly is mindfulness and why should we practice it? Mindfulness is a practice rooted in the ancient Buddhist philosophy as a path to enlightenment. We certainly don’t need to be Buddhist to practice mindfulness. And there are many many benefits of mindfulness on the way to enlightenment. It is an extremely appropriate practice for our modern, hectic, ultra connected lives. In very simple terms, mindfulness is paying attention to all of our experiences (inward and outward), in the present moment, with kindness, curiosity, and without judgement. This involves acceptance, meaning we pay attention to our body sensations, thoughts, feelings and experiences without believing they are right or wrong, good or bad. They just ARE.
Mindfulness is a very powerful tool. Tuning into the present moment with keen observation, in daily life and through yoga and meditation, can help us to develop better awareness of what is happening in our minds (self-awareness), a better understanding of the world around us and of our own sensations, perceptions, thought patterns and reactions. By seeing things differently in this way and by appreciating life moment by moment, we can transform the way we think, feel and act, we have tools to deal with challenges in a serene and positive way, we can find you more joy, creativity and a much deeper sense of self-confidence.
There are many ways to develop mindfulness, and our yoga practice is a perfect opportunity. The poses on their own are not the yoga – they are the OPPORTUNITY TO PRACTICE YOGA; meaning, they offer a chance to practice mindfulness in action by developing an awareness of our mind, breath, and body. This awareness allows us to explore each pose gently and in-depth, as though we are experiencing them from the inside out.
The following 5 ESSENTIAL MINDFULNESS YOGA TECHNIQUES will help you to stay present in your body and in the moment, help you to enjoy and experience every pose in a deeper way, and to practice safely.
Whichever part of your body is in contact with the ground is the foundation of the pose. You are always in relationship with gravity. Try to press into the floor evenly through all parts of your foundation, and receive the steadiness and support up into your body.
Before you start your practice, one of the most important things to do is to find your anchor. Why do we need an anchor for our practice? Think of the function of a boat anchor: an anchor prevents a boat from drifting off with the wind or current, keeps it safe and secure in a desired location. Just like the boat, if it’s not anchored by something our mind will constantly drift and float away from the present moment towards the past or the future, which is not always useful to us. The breath is at the heart of both yoga and meditation practices and so makes an ideal anchor, easy to use because it is always present, constant, steady. So if your mind drifts or wanders, as it invariably will, just remember your anchor and gently guide your attention back to your breath, and come back to the present.
In most poses (other than those that are specifically about releasing all tension, such as child's pose or savasana) you need a certain amount of muscular tension to create stability, strength and proper alignment for a yoga pose. This is the EFFORT, found by engaging the muscles needed to hold the foundation of the pose. We don't want to put effort where it's not needed for the particular pose, such as the jaw, the forehead, the shoulders, or arms (depending on the pose). You want to balance this intelligent effort with EASE. Ease can be found in the parts of your body where you don't need to create tension to hold the pose correctly. It can be inside your body, with the easy flow of receiving and releasing of your breath. Ease can be found in a soft jaw, soft eyes, a smile. You may not need muscular effort in your arms to create a particular pose, so keep them soft while creating a bit of tension just in the fingers. This balance, between effort and ease, is at the very heart of the yoga practice, and it is a never-ending dance.
As you move through your practice, take with you a sense of exploration by building an awareness of your body through each pose. While you are in any particular pose, stay present by scanning your awareness through your body, noticing any sensations as they arise. Notice the the different parts of the body required to move in and out of each pose and how they are connected. Notice the differences from side to side by pausing after each pose. Those sensations may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Don't judge them. Just notice them. By noticing these sensations, you will be experiencing each pose from a new perspective, almost as though you are experiencing them from the inside out.
Please be aware that yoga involves physical movements and, as in the case of any physical activity, the risk of injury, even serious injury, is always present and should not be neglected. Always listen to your body and respect its limits on any given day. Everything is changing in every moment, what might feel good one day will not feel good another day, so just accept that and always do what feels right for your body. Stay aware, stay responsive and loving. A little muscular discomfort during the practice is a good thing, a sign of effort. However, if at any time during your practice you notice pain, adjust your pose or come out of it. Don't let your enthusiasm for the practice carry you into injury. Never push yourself to over-stretch or over-reach, never ignore sensations of pain thinking you should just “push through.” There are always variations of a pose that will make it easier and safer for your body. Pain does not equal gain!
Be kind, patient and loving to your body, just like you would be to a dear friend (because it is a dear friend!) Use your own body to cultivate the qualities of loving awareness, patience, kindness, and compassion, and you will have more of these gifts to share with others in your life.
Now take these Mindfulness POSE ESSENTIALS and discover the ESSENTIAL POSES that are the foundation of every yoga practice.Discover the Essential Poses
I am joyful and grateful to work with Jennifer Reaburn, inspiring yoga and mindfulness teacher, to create this content for HUM. If ever there was a person authentically living yoga every day, it's Jennifer. With kindness, compassion and creativity, she weaves a tapestry of mindfulness, poetry, gratitude, connection to the earth, the power of intention, reverence for the ancient teachings, and limitless curiosity into her yoga practice and her teachings. Her yoga journey began in 2000, when a health scare led her to investigate mind-body connections and to the realization that she had been living with trauma and a sense of disconnection from her body. She dove into healing that disconnection, and headed off to India for a life-changing year of solo travel, learning and yoga. Yoga became a big part of her life, and she practiced for 10 years before being called to teach. Now, trained in various styles of yoga, in evidence-based movement science, trauma-informed care, philosophy, breath work, and mindfulness meditation, she has a broad and varied palette to paint with when she teaches, and no class is ever the same. Each one is open-hearted, fun, both challenging and accessible, inviting presence through body and breath. She is also part of an important county-wide mission to support the wellness of children and youth by bringing mindfulness and yoga into schools. Her ultimate goal as a teacher is to empower people with the tools to notice and choose what is right for them moment by moment, both on the mat and off.
Jennifer Reaburn Yoga