Keeping mindfulness in mind

2013Jan16_HathaYoga_AIn modern day practice, Hatha yoga generally refers to a gentle class of slow, measured movements and meditative breathing techniques that evoke a sense of peace and tranquility. While the effects of the ancient yogic poses are powerful and dynamic, Hatha often appeals to beginners as well as those who value yoga’s therapeutic and spiritual benefits. While you might want to bend your body like a yogi, keeping mindfulness in mind is essential to a really worthwhile class.

Think Hatha yoga, think relaxation. The deliberate unflowing poses of this yoga style, are often seen as an opportunity for you to unwind, forget all your worries and completely switch off. Well, the reality is that’s only half true. The confusion comes with a misconception about what mindfulness really is, and this is linked with even deeper misunderstandings surrounding meditation.

It’s not just novices that struggle with the concept either, and there are many students who benefit from yoga who might stumble at trying to practice or explain what it is to be mindful in practice. Others balk at the idea of what they might consider a spiritual or even religious element infringing on what is a strength building, muscle toning class. However, before you push this element of Hatha yoga practice to the back of your mind, consider what it is and why it’s important.

What is mindfulness?

  • Residing in the ‘now’ ┬árather than the past or future.
  • Being alert in the present moment to everything that is happening at this time.
  • Being aware of the impermanence of all things.
  • Not judging but allowing thoughts to ebb and flow into your consciousness.
  • Not holding on or questioning thoughts, feelings and anxieties.
  • Bringing your attention gently back to your practice through your breathing
  • Not concentrating but relaxing the mind to bring it into greater focus.

Why is mindfulness important?

By centering your mind in this way you can benefit from a decrease in stress levels and anxieties. Such worries are a result of constantly analyzing thoughts and trying to juggle with processes from the past and a myriad of options and potential consequences in the future. By bringing the mind back from dominating your being you are better able to take control of your life in a way that springs from a deeper, more resonant place.

Because of the far reaching benefits of mindfulness Hatha yoga is used as a way of adding an extra dimension to a workout plan. Ask any elite athlete how much emphasis they place on the importance of exercising their mind, as well as their body and most will put this high up their training schedule. And of course, Hatha exercises are powerful in their own right too, with stretches that increase stamina and flexibility with core muscles.

Mindfulness deepens your Hatha yoga practice which in turn can lead to more dynamic poses and movements and greater physical effects, while increasing the mind-body connection. Hatha yoga is a perfect way to bring your body and mind back to basics and improve your wellbeing in the process.

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