Youthfulness through Yoga

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The breath is the bridge between mind and body

Yoga and Youthfulness

Yoga can cultivate a sense of youthfulness in our minds, bodies, and souls. The physical body – muscles, fascia, and joints benefit through movement and strength.
Minds and souls are nourished and rest in a safe space to explore arising thoughts and emotions. Heightened physical awareness allows us to nurture a curious, non-criticising, non-striving, accepting approach.
Curiosity and awareness cultivate a more fulfilled life and present-moment experiences. It’s not easy to just suddenly be ‘more curious’, it has to be worked at but the reward is there. The intrinsic appreciation of precious moments.

‘Whatever is there is there already’

During yoga, the physical senses are heightened. We are acutely aware of what our bodies are telling us. Whether that comes in the form of a sense of satisfaction, relaxation, discomfort, fatigue, or ‘wanting things to be different from how they are’, being aware of the emotions and thoughts that also arise and how they relate to the physical body sensations is enlightening.

Yoga and Breathwork

Yoga, as with mindfulness, has the breath at the heart. That breath.. our own unique breath…  is with us from the minute we are born until the day we die so it’s important that we learn to get up close to it and work with it. Whether it’s an intense class of long, deep postures, or an energetic hot yoga flow class; being tuned into the breath is fundamental. Our breath is an incredibly powerful thing. It keeps us alive for a start. Of course, awareness of the breath helps us in our yoga and mindfulness practices, but it also helps us throughout our lives when we are anxious, stressed, or simply out of sorts. Focussing on the intricacies of our breath can bring us back to a place of stillness.  Yoga helps to cultivate this close familiarity. Each and every in-breath and out-breath.. the pause at the top and the pause at the bottom.

No breath is the same as the last one. Everything comes and goes. There are always cycles of letting go: of the past -what’s gone before, and welcoming the present – what’s here right now in this moment.

The impermanence of moments is beautifully expressed in this quote by Thích Nhất Hạnh 

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

Yoga and ‘The Beginner’s Mind’

Over the past 18 months, my mindfulness practice has deepened, becoming more fulfilling and important. While daily meditation is the core of my practice, incorporation of regular yoga has had a very positive impact.  I enjoy the physical aspect of yoga and I know my body feels the benefit,  especially as I get older.  Having tried various styles over the years, I wondered if I would be able to maintain an interest long-term, however getting started this time was different. Mindfulness has certainly helped me with my yoga journey. Approaching each session with a ‘beginner’s mind’ as if it were for the first time, and adopting a non-judgemental and accepting approach has made it an entirely different experience.

Non-criticism, non-judgment, and acceptance

There are a multitude of daunting thoughts associated with starting any new class in a new place. Even before the mind chattering about whether we can actually do the postures or flows, there’s the concern over how to get there, where to park, what will the other people think, what clothes to wear blah blah blah. All the unhelpful narratives of our negative minds design to distract us from our intention. Mindfulness and Yoga both cultivate an approach of non-criticism of ourselves, not judging whether we are doing it ‘right’ or comparing ourselves to others. Each person’s unique experience is different each time. Like the breath, no two classes are the same. What might feel challenging or comfortable in one class might feel very different the next time. Yoga helps us to appreciate that our boundaries are not fixed. Our limitations and edges are fluid – they change as we explore the sensations of mind and body that are there for us in each moment – just as they do in our mindfulness practice.

Yoga at my Local Studio

I’m in the fortunate position that I have a beautiful yoga studio very close to my home. Yoxafit Studio offers a range of nourishing classes and fitness sessions to suit the mind, body, and soul. There are almost no obstacles to me maintaining my practice:- Timings are good, it’s easy to book online, it’s easy to get to and it’s easy to park. The teachers are wonderful and the studio is a calm and lovely sanctuary. The companionship, warmth, and friendship of fellow yogis is something I cherish. The only deterrent I have to be there in the class on a wet Monday night in winter stems from within myself.

Quietening the chattering mind

My chattering mind throws up the negative narrative … too tired.. can’t be bothered… something else needs to be done… lots of feeble excuses. A mindful approach helps me recognise that this is what the mind chatter does.  Letting that chatter go, changing the narrative, and getting out there never feels like the wrong thing.  I might feel challenged during the class – in a good way –  I always feel good during the wonderful relaxation of Shivasana and for a long time after. Using the more challenging moments to explore what my senses – physical and emotional are throwing up is helpful. Accepting what’s there for me, and listening to the wisdom of my own body is calming.

On-Line Resources

It’s not possible for everyone to attend yoga or mindful movement classes, and there are many different styles and types of yoga to choose from.  There is an abundance of yoga resources including mindful movement and walking meditations online.

Palouse Mindfulness incorporate yoga within their free online 8-week MBSR mindfulness programme

Mindfulness Scotland offer a range of Mindfulness practices on-line at no cost

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