Combining the practice of yoga with the practice of mindfulness has paved the way to “mindful yoga”. This type of yoga uses traditional Buddhist mindfulness teachings to assist with practicing yoga physically. Mindful yoga is the act of connecting your mind to your breath. Father of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, posits the view that “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Sridhar, n.d.).
Applying the four foundations of mindfulness
Applying the Buddha’s four foundations of mindfulness will help you to explore yoga in a new light. Yoga will become a mindfulness practice. You can practice any of the four foundations daily or practice them sequentially. Let’s talk about the four foundations:
- Mindfulness of the Body
Mindfulness of the body speaks to the awareness of your body as a collection of different parts: skin, nails, teeth, bones, heart, and all other parts. We look at each of our body parts as a small body that is in the larger structure that we call “the body”. When we look at our body as being composed of numerous different parts, it helps us to see our bodies as a body and not “my body”.
Mindfulness of the body helps us to understand that the human body is impermanent, and it is not pardoned from illness or death. Therefore, the body can fail us and is thus, not a lasting source of happiness. As the Buddha believes, it teaches us to “know the body as it really is”.
2. Mindfulness of feelings
Mindfulness of feelings speaks to both your emotions and your bodily awareness. Just like the body, our feelings can be divided. Through mindfulness, we learn to observe and acknowledge our feelings. This leads us to understand that they are not constant and will always change. Through this you will learn to identify your feelings as they arise and not attach yourself to them. Your feelings do not define who you are, they are simply, feelings. In practicing this, Buddha says we “know feelings as they really are.”
3. Mindfulness of mind
Mindfulness of mind speaks to awareness and consciousness. In this, we think of the mind as if it were a single being. The framework of mindfulness helps us to understand that consciousness comes from moment to moment.
As you pay attention to your mind, you will notice that as each thought arises, it passes away. This tells us that we are not our thoughts. Through practicing mindfulness of the mind, we learn to detach our identity from our thoughts. At the end, we start to understand our mind as it really is.
4. Mindfulness of Dharma
“Dharma” is a Sanskrit word that describes “the way things are” or “natural law”. With mindfulness of dharma, we come to understand that everything in our environment exists for us. This mindful practice teaches us that all things are temporary and conditioned by everything else.
Four mindful yoga exercises
These mindful yoga poses are very simple and will assist you in slowing down your breath. As your breath slows down, so does your body and mind. This will also heighten your awareness.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This pose is so simple and excellent in bringing awareness to your entire body and mind.
Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
Tree pose helps your mind to focus on finding balance while standing on one leg. Although your mind will wander off, you will realize, readjust, and focus.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)
This is a stretching posture. It improves our concentration, balance, and core awareness. This pose will make you want to change positions making it a great exercise for mindfulness.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
This posture is great for restoring you at the end of practicing mindful yoga. It helps to bring one’s awareness inward.
It is our hope that you now understand what mindful yoga is and how it can be beneficial to you. Using yoga as the framework, we use mindful yoga to foster mindfulness and meditation. Remember, putting mindfulness and yoga together can help you to find a deeper sense of self-awareness, acceptance, and compassion for both ourselves and others. If you would like to experience mindfulness through yoga, sign up for our upcoming class by visiting our website, www.yogaangels.com