Yoga and mindfulness are both individually age-old practices. Before exploring how the two are connected let’s understand what they mean individually.
What is yoga?
Yoga as a physical discipline is about synchronising your body in a smooth posture that allows you to physically be present in the moment. Yoga is also about bringing your attention and awareness to what your body is trying to communicate with you. While practicing yoga, the first thing that you start with is by paying close attention to your body and your movements.
What is mindfulness?
On the other hand, mindfulness is about being aware of what is happening right now. It is about the awareness and the non-judgmental acceptance of ‘What is’. Simply put, being mindful is all about being present in that very moment without separating them as being good or bad, it is just being aware of any feeling or emotion that you’re going through in that very moment and accepting it as is, without judgment or reaction.
How are yoga and mindfulness connected?
Mindfulness and yoga go hand in hand seamlessly because both aim to achieve that higher order of awareness or connection between the body, mind, and spirit. Both, yoga and mindfulness guide you to quieten your mind and form a connection with a deeper understanding of yourself and your surroundings.
Mindfulness is something that we can cultivate through a yoga practice. The breathing techniques that are used during yoga helps us connect with our body in the present. It also builds our awareness of all that is happening around us at that time.
Practicing mindfulness helps us better our yoga practice, as it helps us get better control on our breathing and mind. It also helps us make a higher connection with our body and help us better understand it.
What is mindful yoga?
Mindful yoga is a form, or a set of yoga poses that prepares your body and mind to practice meditation. Just as some poses that prepare you for stretching and strength, there are some poses that give you the energy and sets up your frame of mind to practice meditation. These mindful yoga poses are simple, and they help you slow down your breath, quieten your mind, relax your body, and heighten your sense of awareness.
Tadasana – The Mountain Pose
This is the basis of all the standing poses in yoga. When practiced mindfully it brings your awareness to all the areas of your body and mind.
Stand up with your arms at your sides. Press all four corners of your feet into the ground, distributing your weight evenly between both feet. Elongate the spine, keeping the lower ribs from jutting out, gently lifting the chest. Relax the shoulders down your back. Keep your chin parallel to the floor.
Vrikshasana – The Tree Pose
This is the basic balancing posture. It helps you find body and mind balance as you stand on one leg. The purpose of this pose is to help you center your mind with one pointed attention on the single task at hand, that is to keep your balance.
Standing tall with your arms at your sides, start to shift your weight to your right foot. Inhale while lifting the opposite leg, rotating it externally. Use your left hand to help guide the sole of your left foot onto your inner right thigh. Bring your hands to your chest in prayer position. Your left foot should be pressing firmly into your right thigh, and right thigh pressing firmly into your left foot. Maintain this pose while breathing in and out. Repeat for the left foot.
Anjaneyasana – The Low Lunge
This is a stretching exercise that increases balance, concentration, and core awareness. It is a great mindfulness activity as along with the body it also stretches the mind.
Starting from Downward-Facing Dog Pose, step your right foot forward and place it beside your right thumb, lining up your right knee over your right ankle. Lower your left knee down to the ground, ensuring to place it behind your hips. Raise your torso and sweep your arms above your head, palms facing one another, biceps beside your ears.
Allow your hips to settle forwards and down until you feel a stretch in the front of your left leg and psoas muscle. Draw your tailbone down, lengthening your lower back and engaging your core muscles. Begin to draw your thumbs into the back plane of your body as you reach up, shifting your gaze upward for a mild backbend.
Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This is the best end posture for mindful yoga and a great way to segway into meditation as it brings the attention inwards.
Starting from Corpse Pose, bring the soles of your feet together, and let your knees fall open. Extend your arms out by your side, angled at about 45 degrees from the sides of your torso, palms facing up. Start to relax your face, chest, shoulders, hips, and feet. Allow your knees to drop further, as you go deeper into the pose.
Benefits of yoga and mindfulness
Individual benefits of yoga and mindfulness are many but combining the two just amplifies and enhances their individual benefits. Practicing mindfulness and yoga seamlessly has many folds effect on your physical and mental health and overall wellbeing.
Impact on physical health:
Controls the blood pressure
Reduces aches and pains
Releases physical stress
Improves quality of sleep
Impact on mental health:
Helps you become aware and therefore avoid day-to-day stressors
Helps deal with anxiety and depression
The combination of yoga and mindfulness practices improve your overall wellbeing. When both are practiced regularly it helps you gain insights of your own feelings and thoughts. Helps you gain clarity in decision making. It also improves productivity and creativity. It will also make you more grateful and kind.