This is an excerpt from Guiding Yoga's Light by Nancy Gerstein.
To integrate mindfulness into practice.
It’s said by many that in order to practice yoga, you don’t have to be flexible or strong, you just have to be awake. Mindfulness is the core of yoga practice. It is what separates practicing asana from just another stretch. Mindfulness means fully experiencing what happens in the here and now. It’s the art of becoming deeply aware of the present moment.
Mindfulness means doing one thing at a time. We put our full attention into what we’re doing-whether it is our yoga practice, driving the car, or talking to our friends-so that we can be awake in that moment.
When we’re mindful, we’re not missing what’s happening now by thinking about the past or future. Our inner focus is in charge; distractions stay on the periphery of the mind. Focus stays intact, and our immediate experience is fully realized.
The emotional benefits of mindfulness are boundless. It helps us turn down the noise in our heads-feelings of anger or doubt, worries about tomorrow, clinging to the past.
In our practice, mindfulness begins by feeling the pose come to life, sensing the response of the breath, being mindful of stretch, strength, and balance as well as of our boundaries.
Lie in shavasana. Pay attention to your breath. Let your mind become absorbed in the sound of the inhale and the sound of the exhale. As if you’re watching the waves of the ocean, let your mind be drawn into the presence and stillness. The breathing is always changing. No single breath is the same as the last.
Asanas for Deepening
Practice postures using an internal mantra. This could be any set of words that has meaning to you. If you don’t have a mantra, use an affirmation such as "I am strong" or "Practice patience." The mantra can be inhaled and exhaled, such as "Let" on the inhale, "go" on the exhale.
Begin with surya namaskara (sun salutation) (see pages 58-59). When flowing through postures, be mindful of the muscular action, like a full-body stocking. Hug your muscles to the bones, and draw your energy toward the midline of the body. Try not to miss anything here, not a joint, a muscle, or a thought.
In natarajasana (king dancer), breathe smoothly, and bring the pose to life. Support your mindfulness with prana. Accept where you are in this moment without striving, without comparing, and without judging.
Finish with reclining leg cradles. When you can’t pull the leg in any tighter, stay where you are. Maintain the action of the pose and relax with the intensity of the stretch. Close your eyes and let go into who you really are.
This is an excerpt from Guiding Yoga’s Light.