By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Mindfulness meditation techniques complement a Yoga posture (asana) practice beautifully. The practice of mindfulness meditation, or awareness through witness consciousness, helps a Yoga student to be aware of the needs, limitations, and wisdom of his or her body, during a Yoga class. This awareness is important during both a vigorous flowing session of Yoga asanas, as well as a gentle restorative Yoga practice. In both cases, remaining aware of the needs of the body, and one’s emotions, during a an asana session, will help a student to release deeply-held tension and support the healing of one’s body and mind.
By maintaining a state of mindfulness, and by witnessing consciousness during a Yoga training session, a student will be able to ascertain the state of his or her own mind and body. With this awareness, he or she will be able to engage in Yoga asanas and pranayama exercises that will replenish, relax, strengthen, and nourish one’s being on all levels. Becoming aware of what your body and mind actually need, in any given moment during a Yoga class, may seem easy, but it is trickier than you might first believe.
Often, we have strict expectations for ourselves and our Yoga practice. If we are able to go into upward-facing bow on Tuesday, we should absolutely be able to go into this challenging pose on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday – regardless of the daily fluctuating state of our bodies. Disregarding our bodies’ needs and limitations, by pushing through our current physical state, can cause injury and a sense of violence toward one’s self. This is the antithesis of one of the main tenets of the Yoga Sutras, which we know as Ahimsa or non-harming.
To remain unaware of your physical needs and limitations, and to do the poses you think you should be able to do anyway, even if your body hurts, is an act of self-harming. Respecting your body’s needs and limitations springs first from a non-judgmental awareness of your daily physical and emotional needs. For example, does it seem silly that you are having trouble maintaining Tree Pose today? If so, you may want to utilize the mindfulness meditation technique of non-judgmental and compassionate exploration of the reasons for your lack of balance today. Are you upset about something? Are you feeling rushed or emotionally off balance?
If so, do you know why? Is there another pose that would better help you to ground, center, balance, and relax, today? Putting this awareness and wisdom into practice is a critical component of allowing your body to relax and trust you. This honoring of your own physical needs and limitations will support you in creating physical and emotional health, ease, and complete well being.
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