Mindfulness. Is it just me, or does this word suddenly seem to be everywhere?
From anxiety sufferers, to Yoga practitioners, to primary school children; it seems that Mindfulness has become the solution offered to many of the side effects of living in a fast-paced, increasingly digitised world.
I’ll be honest: I’ve struggled for a while now to comprehend what exactly Mindfulness is. It isn’t really something tangible, something you can readily explain.
In essence, I believe it’s the practise of concentrating on doing/seeing/being one thing or in one place at any given time. I think it’s a kickback against the multi-tasking ideals we’ve been increasingly sold.
I was recently considering attending a Yoga workshop. When I enquired what type of Yoga the workshop leader was delivering, I was told her classes were ‘Mindful’. I have to admit to being kind of confused. Because Yoga, to me, is the very essence of Mindfulness in itself.
Within a Yoga practise, you can’t do anything else but concentrate on the pose or the breathing exercise you are engaged in. If you are standing on one foot, for example, and start to think about what you are going to cook for dinner, you will likely fall over!
And it was at this point that a light bulb finally went on for me. One of those wonderful ‘A-ha!’ moments.
I’d been trying to figure out what all this sudden interest in the wonderful benefits of practising Mindfulness were, that I’d failed to realise I’d been practising them all along! The very reason I first fell in love with Yoga was the fact that I completely forgot about everything else whilst I was engaged in it. I loved the fact that my mind would empty, as soon as I sat down on my mat, and began breathing – really breathing – and moving my body into the poses.
I’ve recently begun introducing this idea of Mindfulness into my daily morning walks. Instead of thinking over a problem, or turning up my MP3, I’ve begun slowing down. Taking notice. Of the sounds of the river, the lushness of the trees, even the feel of rain on my face. And it’s true – it really does work.
So this week’s Yoga pose is simply a breathing exercise. There’s no fancy meditation practises required, just a simple, concentration of breath, to allow the body to settle.
The Pose: Bee Breath: Come to sit cross-legged on the floor – sit on a cushion or Yoga block if it makes you more comfortable, or even rest your back against a wall – the key is to have the back as straight as possible. Gently close your eyes and place your hands either palm face down on your knees (earthwards) or face upwards (skywards), and begin to deepen the breath, in and out through the nose. After a few breaths, begin to breathe in a little more deeply, completely filling both lungs with air. When you feel you can’t take in any more breath, begin to slowly breathe back out, through the nose, but making a ‘buzzing’ sound in the back of your throat. As the breath totally empties from your body, the buzzing will begin to fade out, and you can once again take a deep breath in through the nose. Continue to repeat this process for around ten rounds of breath, or a minute or so, before coming to return to normal breathing.
As a follow on from this, next time you go out, try to really notice your surroundings: the colour of the sky; the shape of the clouds; the smell of the pavement after a rain shower; the feel of rain on your cheek.
Until next time,