Updated on August 9, 2015
How to enjoy every experience and movement
Women’s Health Magazine has a great article this month about yoga and overdoing it. It talks about how it’s turned into a competitive and stressful activity rather than the mindful and stress-releasing one it is intended to be.
Have you noticed this about your workouts or perhaps other activities you need to complete? You put so much pressure on yourself to get to class, or do that pose or move that everyone else seems to be able to do, that your body is starting to feel achy and you are stressed out after adding yet more to your ‘must get done’ list.
You know that mindfulness is about being fully present in what you’re doing but what does that actually mean in a practise?
Being mindful is fully experiencing what you are doing.
If you have a chocolate bar near you go grab it!
Side note: if you don’t like chocolate or can’t eat chocolate you can do the same thing with something else, like a banana or ice cream cone for example.
Now hold it in your hand and notice the wrapper design, notice how the bar feels, what size and weight it is. Become aware of your feelings.
***AVOID being judgemental with yourself and starting an inner battle about whether or not you should really eat the chocolate!***
Just notice your feelings and accept them. It might help to say ‘I am feeling … about this chocolate bar.’ Then move on.
Slowly unwrap the chocolate bar – take your time even if it’s hot and the chocolate is melting! – notice all the sensations – what you see, feel, smell … Remember, no judgement. Simply immerse yourself in the experience.
Now break off a piece or take a bite and feel the chocolate melt into a smooth paste in your mouth. Take your time and really notice the flavour, the consistency, how you feel, if your body changes in the way it feels.
If thoughts come into your head simply be aware of them. There is no need to give every thought your full attention. If a thought is important it will come back later. Trust your mind. For now you are enjoying (or maybe not …) a delicious chocolate bar!
Continue to make your way slowly through the bar fully experiencing it and come back to reading this when you’re done. Take as much time as you like!
How did it feel to give your full attention to that one simple thing?
If you’re anything like me there are many times when you are on autopilot (see being mindful vs being mindless) and aren’t giving your full and complete attention to what you’re doing – from teaching or participating in a VeraFlow class, to cooking the dinner, to talking with your partner or a friend.
You know that is happening when other thoughts enter your mind and you allow them to take over pulling you away from the present to the past or to the future.
Applying this to participating in class, being mindful means being fully aware of your body and the sensations as you move through the routines, moves or poses.
You know your own body. You can feel what it needs. If you feel pain STOP. It’s that simple. If you feel like you cannot go any further. Don’t do it. If your muscles begin to shake, ease out of the stretch.
Just because someone else has their leg wrapped around their head does not mean that you should be able to do it too. Everyone’s body is different and only you can feel the sensations and warning signs in your own body. You are responsible for it and you need to listen with your senses.
I think the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ should be thrown out the window!
I’ll give you an example from my own life. We do have to go back in time a bit though…!
I was sent to ballet classes at 3 years old. I loved it and continued to dance all through my life. I worked hard and progressed through the ballet grades always getting honours and distinction for my exams. It came to a point in one of the major exams that I did not. I got a pass with a comment on my result slip that I will never forget:
‘Naomi did very well within the limitations of her physique’
Was I gutted? Yes! But it’s hard to get too upset with that because actually I probably couldn’t have done better given how my body it built – the angles of my joints for example prevent me from being able to stand with my feet completely turned out to 180º. If I was to have pushed and forced my feet to be turned out at right-angles to my body, I would have seriously damaged my knees and actually I wouldn’t have been able to perform the movements well in any case.
I just had to accept that I do not have the body to become a professional ballet dancer and that is ok. It did however open the door to contemporary and modern dance!
Next time you are in a VeraFlow class I challenge you to become more and more focused on the movements you are doing.
The reason we repeat the routines is to give you the opportunity to improve each time – to become more and more aware of your body, it’s alignment, where you are feeling the stretch, to adjust and to breathe.
Remember you should never feel pain when stretching. Only tension and a mild discomfort which might make you feel like changing your position to get rid of it… but you don’t want to do that!