Juliet currently takes over our Instagram stories every Tuesday at 6pm to share with our followers a 25 minute yoga flow to help us all stretch, unwind and find time for ourselves.
Tips for cultivating more mindfulness on your mat and throughout your day.
By Juliet Heather
For a lot of us, it is the first time we’ve worked from home, without the regular routine of a working day at the office or we are facing a long break from work. Likely, without our morning commutes we’ve got more time on our hands but where is it going? Or maybe you have a family and struggle to find moments of peace and quiet during your days at home.
Untethered by a global crisis, I have found myself distracted by devices, bombarded by emails, messages and news. In a world where we are exposed to so much information, which is often, half digested and manifests its self in a sense of dis-ease. It’s hard to stay present with all this distraction. This can accumulate in our responses to situations and the choices we make.
In extraordinary times like these, we need ways of reconnecting to our internal landscapes, to reclaim the balance, settle our over stimulated nervous systems and check in with what we really need. I have found that mindfulness practices can really help. A regular mindfulness practice has been scientifically proven to regulate the nervous system, leaving us better able to deal with stress, help ease chronic pain and make better decisions, and even improve relationships. Mindfulness is an ability we all have, an ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing. It’s not something we need to invent but in our fast-paced modern lives we have increasingly lost the ability to access and move through the world with it.
Here are some seven tips for cultivating more mindfulness on and off your yoga mat.
1. Start with an intention. To be kind. Kindness towards one’s self is a key component of a deliberate mindfulness practice. When we practice mindfulness we begin to notice our inner workings, thoughts and feelings so we need to cultivate an openness and compassion so we can be receptive without judgement or criticism.
2. Why not begin with mindfulness? The best time to practice is first thing in the morning before you respond to any demands or plans, start the day with a morning practice. I have found practicing with an app like Waking Up with Sam Harris or Headspace easy to use and really benefits the rest of my day.
3. Mindful eating practice. Step away from your desk or phone for lunch or your tea break. Before you begin to eat or drink, take in the sight and smell of your food or drink and then savour the tastes. Our senses are a really powerful tool to bring us back to the present moment.
4. During your day pause regularly and notice your breath. What is your breath telling you about how you really are? Is your breath fast or slow? Is it smooth or ragged? Is it deep or shallow? Experiment with adjusting your breath. Inhale for longer exhale for longer. Add pauses at the top and bottom of your breath. And then sit and observe. How do you feel?
5. I have found that increasing my breath awareness enhances my daily yoga practices. The breath one of the most important parts of yoga practices. Experiment with seeing how the poses affect your breath. Our breath is like the bridge between our bodies and minds. Breathing mindfully sends smoothing messages to the brain everything is ok.
Yoga is an internal practice and another layer to it is training your mind to investigate sensation in the body, with kindness. Bringing our awareness to our own body is great hack to help move us back to the present moment and if done in combination with mindful breathing can help ease pain and tension. You can take this heightened awareness off your mat. Try regularly noticing how you are sitting or standing. Notice the feeling of your feet on the ground. Now place a hand on your chest or belly and sense your own aliveness, in the present moment. Notice what affect these simple practices have on your levels of stress or reactivity as you go through the day.
6. Be receptive. When I first started mindfulness I thought that I would get to a state where I was totally relaxed and would have less unsettling thoughts. When this didn’t happen, I told myself I wasn’t a good meditator, or yogi. I felt like I was failing and it wasn’t for me. But over time I have started to realise that mindfulness is not about stopping thoughts or bypassing feelings. It is about acknowledging them and recognising what is going on for me in that moment. Gradually by not reacting to these thoughts or feelings, and instead acknowledging and witnessing them, giving them space to be heard and felt, I have gained a sense that they are constantly changing and, that I have a choice in how I respond to them.
7. Awareness. With all the external noise it can be hard to even understand how we feel. To build an awareness of my feelings I love the practice of weather reporting. Try it! Close your eyes and become aware of how you are feeling. If this feeling could be described as the weather what sort of weather would it be? For example, if you’re feeling quite calm maybe it’s a still, warm day or windy and wild if you’re feeling a bit anxious. If you can, keep a note of these internal weather patterns throughout the day and reflect on what changes your weather and how it is the nature of the weather to change. When we move through our day with more mindfulness is it on the yoga mat or simply doing the washing up we can create space to recognise what truly matters to us, and make better choices for not only ourselves but for our loved ones and the planet.
Enjoy and let me know if you try out any of these tips!
Lots of love Jules xx