Being Present: Mindfulness and Meditation Through Yoga
When thinking about yoga, meditation and mindfulness, the En Vogue’s Grammy award winning song “Free your mind” immediately enters my mind. Lyrics from the song reveal that when you free your mind, the rest will follow. That’s exactly how I think about being present. When you’re truly enveloped in a moment, you are not distracted by other thoughts, experiences, people, sounds etc. Some might argue that it’s a life-long quest to learn this type of discipline. In fact, maybe a true perceptive is only understood by Buddhist monks retreating to a mountain, in order to achieve enlightenment. What can we mere mortals do in the quest for meaning and better connecting with our higher selves?
When I first began yoga, it was astounding to me that for 2 blessed hours I was completely ‘out of my head’ and instead occupied space entirely in my body. For a person who lives in her head, this was a much welcomed change. Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga. This style of yoga that can be traced back to the 5th century B.C. places an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment in the performance of posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama). The development of strength, stability and mobility is gained through the asanas.
The word “yoga” originates from the Sanskrit root yuj which means Union. On the spiritual plane, it means “union of the individual self with the universal self”. Yoga is the union of the body, mind, emotions and intellect. It is therefore fitting that when one is engaged in the practice of yoga, one can achieve a perfect alignment and union between body and mind. After much practice, one can achieve a higher knowing of self by being afforded insights into deeper existential questions relating to meaning and purpose for being.
On the official website for B.K.S Iyengar Yoga it states, that “the mind must always remain in the state of present”; This deep concentration and mindfulness is necessary in order to accurately position one’s body into the various poses. The use of self designed props such as ropes, wooden gadgets and belts, helps one achieve precision in all the postures.
When first experiencing the immense joy of Inyengar yoga, it immediately became apparent that this was in fact a form of meditation. I had been led to believe that meditation required chanting and sitting for extended periods of time, paying attention on a particular theme or object in silence. Meditation is defined as “a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath or particular movement.” This focused attention is practiced in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation and enhance both personal and spiritual growth.
I was not a proponent of sitting in a room with many other people attempting to meditate. Similarly, I recall being 11 or 12 years old and staring into a lit candle waiting for this miraculous state of tranquility to present itself. It became more frustrating than attaining a level of peace, harmony and possible insight. However, from the instant I began Iyengar yoga, this notion of meditation assumed an entirely new meaning. Finally, I too was able to be present and wholly focused on my breathing and movement, devoid of any thoughts or distractions. It was incredible to me that 2 hours spent deeply engaged in the practice of yoga had felt like 20 minutes. I could not think of another activity or modality that enabled me to become so in tune with my body and so focused on my movements and breathing. This utter concentration meant that I was unaware of time passing, people talking, the temperature in the room and the usually endless thoughts that permeated my mind.
When you free your mind and remove the endless chatter, the rest will follow. Yoga enabled me to achieve this much sought after state. The mindfulness and incredible insights afforded when one is truly present, immediately manifest.
Travel specialist. Running advocate. Unapologetic zombie fanatic. Student. Coffee guru. Amateur social mediaholic. Jane Grates, a wife and entrepreneur from Denmark, manages the websites Runnerclick, Nicershoes and Monica’s Health Mag most of her days.