Mindful Yoga: Using Mindfulness to Release Tension, Meditate and Have Fun!
Yoga has been part of my mindfulness practice for a few years now and it has evolved into a beloved part of my day.
The first time I officially tried yoga was when my friend and I bought a ten class pass to Bikram yoga. It was not at all what I expected and I didn't enjoy it much at all! The heat made me incredibly nauseous and I didn't experience the calm or relaxation I was hoping for.
In the same way that I believe people can find the mindfulness activities which suit them most and create a practice they love, there are different types of yoga for different people.
I personally love Vinyasa and Yin, depending on how I feel on the day! If I want to feel strong and test my limits, I opt for Vinyasa. If I want to stretch out, meditate and relax, then Yin is my go-to.
I'd like to encourage you to try different types of yoga to find what suits you.
Here are my tips for your yoga journey:
Embrace your body and respect your limits.
Don't apologise for losing balance, taking breaks when you need to or asking your instructor for an alternative if a pose doesn't feel right for your body. Do your yoga practice your way!
Keep your attention within the four corners of your yoga mat. It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing, what matters is your experience.
Ask for help. In my experience, yoga instructors are wonderful and always willing to help you on your yoga journey. If you have questions or want some friendly advice, don't be afraid to ask for it!
My other tip for your yoga journey is to understand what you want to get out of it. Do you want to strengthen your body? Meet new people? Relax? Discover different experiences? Below, you'll find out exactly how I merge yoga and mindfulness to achieve the things I want! The biggest goals in my yoga practice include releasing tension from my body, meditating and having fun.
Mindful Yoga to Release Tension
I spend a fair chunk of time at my computer during the day, which often results in pain and tension in my back. I love spending time in gentle spinal twists and forward folds to release that build up of pain and tension. I find Yin a very restorative practice, which allows me to unwind and reset. It gives me the time to feel where tension is in my body and use my breath to soften that area.
I practice Yin most days on my living room floor, with a cushion from the couch for added support. I've been using (and loving!) the Grounded Mat from Mukti Yoga Mats, which has been wonderful for me because it has the right amount of cushioning and is longer than my other yoga mats. I'll be reviewing this mat and offering an exciting giveaway later this week, so be sure to stay tuned!
Mindful Yoga to Meditate
I also love a gentle Yin session to explore my meditation practice. Holding poses for a longer time gives me the space to quieten my thoughts, focus on sensations within my body and continually bring my mind back when it wanders.
I also enjoy breathing in time with each movement during sun salutations. This breathing practice is soothing and calming, while effectively bringing my focus to the present moment. I recommend attending a yoga class to try this out if you haven't before, as a yoga teacher will gently guide you through the practice.
Mindful Yoga to Have Fun
My yoga practice is also a wonderful way to have fun, embrace my body and explore new sensations! While I used to practice yoga to look a certain way and have the perfect photo for Instagram (which isn't a bad thing if that's what makes you happy!), I now practice yoga much more for the simple fun of it. Without the pressure I used to put on myself, I'm much more forgiving and able to enjoy the experience. Rather than being frustrated and disappointed by my tight hamstrings and tense shoulders, I embrace them and use a cushion to support my body where I need it. It might not be Instagram-worthy, but it definitely feels right for me!
There are two apps I use for my at-home yoga practice and they are Yoga Studio and Yin Yoga. However, I absolutely recommend attending a live yoga class (especially if you are a beginner!) to have the proper guidance as you begin your yoga journey.