Yoga is great for stretching, for relaxation, strengthening and toning. But I’ve recently discovered one more thing it is great for.
I’ve been learning and practicing Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (you can read my diary of my experience here). In order to get the most benefit out of the MBCT it’s really important to try and take some time to do a mindfulness meditation as often as possible. This usually takes the form of a body scan – a form of meditation where you focus your attention on each part of the body in turn.
But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Have you tried focusing your attention on your toes? Or how about your elbows? When your body is still you are often focusing on the lack of sensation rather than any clear feeling or experience. This makes it trickier. It’s not impossible but it is easier for your mind to wander, especially when you are just getting started. Yoga is perfect for practicing mindful movement. As your body moves you can focus more easily on the sensations of stretching and twisting, becoming more aware of how your body feels in each posture.
Of course, mindful meditation isn’t primarily about relaxation. It’s about getting better at grounding ourselves, becoming more aware of how our body feels in order to practice bringing ourselves back into the present moment and stop the rumination and worry that can cause relapse into depression or anxiety.
I’ve been attending some yoga for mindful mediation sessions recently. I’ve found that moving mindfully through yoga makes it easier for me to check in on each part of my body, as I feel it working. It also encourages me to focus on my breathing in the same way that I was taught to use the breath in the breathing space meditation.
I find that the combination of the mental break that focusing on the present gives me and the physical benefits of the yoga movements leave me feeling refreshed. The classes usually end with a still meditation so I can still practice that too. If you’re exploring mindfulness or MBCT and finding some of the meditations difficult to maintain, combining it with Yoga is definitely worth a try.