Yoga and Mindfulness
“At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?”
–At Blackwater Pond, by Mary Oliver
To be mindful is to bring your full awareness to the present moment, to pay attention to your breath, to the sensations in your body, to the thoughts running through your head—all without judging or reacting to them. Mindfulness is about being, rather than doing. You are simply an observer of the moment, cultivating attention. In a culture where we judge each other and ourselves by how much we accomplish, how busy we are, and how well we multitask, this can sometimes feel unsettling. Being mindful seems simple on paper, but it is this perceived simplicity that can make it so challenging. When a thought enters your head, you’re inclined to follow it. When your leg itches, you want to scratch it. Practicing mindfulness helps you to acknowledge the thought and let it pass through, to acknowledge the itch and leave it alone.
You can bring mindful attention to many experiences beyond traditional meditation—eating, going for a walk, making art, doing yoga… Mindful yoga provides a meditation practice opportunity to those for whom seated meditation is not accessible or not the right fit. It also helps you to be fully present, turning your attention to your breath and to the sensations in your body, deepening your yoga practice and providing a richer and more meaningful experience. Being able to offer your full attention to the present moment is something that has benefits off the mat and outside the yoga studio, too. During times of stress or anxiety, it helps to be able to stop and breathe and focus your attention.
Mindfulness is a constantly evolving practice. It’s not something that has goals or levels to achieve, or something you can force. You have to create space for it to happen, and continue to show up even when the flood of thoughts and sensations seems to be crowding out your attention. The difficulty is part of the journey. You have to let it come to you, a bit like gaining the trust of a wild animal.
Keene Yoga Center has several class opportunities to explore mindfulness in your practice: Mindful Yoga on Wednesday evenings at 4pm and 5:30pm, and Mindfulness Meditation on Wednesday evenings at 5:45pm. Sign up for any of these classes Here!
Written by Grace Martin
Grace Martin is a library assistant and aspiring writer who loves food, fiber arts, and reading any book she can get her hands on. She was drawn to yoga in early 2017, and enjoys incorporating aspects of meditation and ritual into her practice. She has lived in Keene for the past two years.