The Journey of Yoga
Part 2 – The Mind
What does yoga have to do with my mind?
Isn’t is supposed to be about crazy pretzel positions? Yoga is more than just the body and the physical poses.
Mindful awareness comes into play as we start to learn more about ourselves and how we relate within our body.
The sensations, the movements, and what is happening around us. It’s about paying attention, purposefully in the present moment.
Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind – Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras
When we pay attention to what is going on within ourselves and start to understand what we do and how we do it, then we increase our ability to be mindful in different aspects of life. One way we can do this is by setting an intention for the practice.
Have you ever been to a class where the teacher has asked you to set your intention? Have you ever wondered why you need to set an intention? When I first started many years ago, I had no clue what this meant.
My intention was to get through the ninety minute class and feel good for getting the workout in or in all honesty, it was my get away time from three little kids, dogs, cats and husband. So I never really understood it until many years later.
What does setting an intention do for us?
When we set an intention, we are creating a purpose for the practice. Different days will bring a different purpose. We set the intention so we can focus and gain clarity in what we want or what we do. It is meant to be a guide throughout the practice and you will then take that guide or purpose with you into the rest of your day.
It can be whatever you need based on what is going on in your life.
Here are just a few ideas for intentions or mantras to try. Or come up with your own, something that means something for you.
I can do hard things
I am capable
I am enough
I am grateful
I am present
I am showing up
I can handle challenges
I will take imperfect action
Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga and it’s about maintaining focus and concentration as a way to still the monkey mind. This can be done in many ways. As we discussed above, it can be setting your intention and using that as an anchor throughout your practice and bringing that anchor into the rest of your day.
Another way to be mindfully aware is through focusing on the poses themselves. We are busy people with lives full of responsibilities and stresses. Drishti is a Sanskrit word meaning focused gaze and is used as a way to develop concentrated intention. It relates to the sixth limb of yoga, Dharana. It is a focal point used to direct and focus our attention on.
By paying attention to how your body moves through a particular sequence or pose you are gaining focus and maintaining control of your body and mind.
A slow-moving sequence that requires you to keep your balance, or to move very deliberately between poses will help with that.
Begin in mountain pose, step your right foot back to high lunge, pause there and after several breaths bring your right foot back up towards mountain pose but instead of putting your foot down, bring your knee up at a ninety degree and hold the posture.
You have to focus and move very deliberately, paying attention to your balance, where your leg needs to go, and how to move into a one legged standing position. To go even further extend your right leg out straight in front of you, hold the position and after several breaths bend leg once again. If you still have balance and focus, open that right leg up for a few more breaths. Bring your leg back to center before finally setting it back down to the mat. Do this on the other side.
What you will find is your balance and the way your body moves and reacts to the poses will be different on each side. You will have to focus your awareness on what is going on in your body, and in your mind so you can successfully move through the sequence.
Yoga helps us gain mindful awareness as we set a purpose for our practice and learn to pay attention to our mind and body in the present moment.