As much as the act of going to a yoga class can be a nourishing practice of compassion and self-care, it can also surface feelings of frustration if your mind won’t focus and embrace calm. Instead of thinking about your breathing, you may be preoccupied with your to-do list: laundry today, vacation packing tomorrow, and, wait, what about making sure the dog has daycare for the weekend?
Rooting our consciousness in the present moment is not an easy task. We live in a world of sound bytes; we are trained to multi-task and rush. Yoga uses the body as a means to bring the mind into presence. By staying consciously connected to our inhalations and exhalations in yoga, we learn the practice of letting thoughts and emotions swim by without becoming attached or caught up in them.
Here are a five ways of staying present in yoga class:
- Arrive early – It’s always a good idea to arrive at least 10 minutes early to a yoga class. Set up your mat and get into a comfortable position. Start breathing deeply to calm your mind and rid your consciousness of outside thoughts. Along with coming early, it is a good idea to skip caffeinated beverages before coming to class to help encourage your mind to stay present.
- Come with a full, yet comfortable stomach – Eat no less than two hours before your yoga class so that you won’t be too full or too hungry when practicing.
- Practice silence – While it can be tempting to catch up with friends before class, try to minimize talking until the class is over. Gossip, giggles and listening to other people’s problems can take your mind away from the present.
- Love your breath – While practicing, return your awareness to your breath. Inhale consciously, being aware of the space between breaths, and exhale consciously.
- Distance yourself from your thoughts – Remind yourself that the thoughts running through your head are not “you.” Observe them and let them pass as if you were watching the formation of a wave pattern on the surface of the ocean or clouds passing across the sky.
Have faith. Learning to tame the mind-monkey is like training a puppy or a toddler. You need persistence, patience and a gentle hand. Once you learn to exert simple boundaries and master the art of redirecting, your mind will respond brilliantly.