Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice, which has profound relevance for our present day lives. This relevance has nothing to do with Buddhism per se or with becoming a Buddhist, but it has everything to do with waking up and living in harmony with oneself and with the world.
Mindfulness is defined as the capacity of intentionally bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. It can be defined as the ability to observe things as they are: without choosing, without comparing and judging, without evaluating and without subtracting from or adding anything to what is happening. All the thoughts, feelings, sensations – indeed all our experiences, both physical and psychological – are like clouds passing through the sky.
One tends to identify with the clouds of thought, projection, aversion and urgencies, and ignore the sky. The underlying principle of mindfulness practice is therefore the cultivation of the “big sky mind”, in order to allow all changing phenomena to pass through awareness, without being swept away or entangled with it.
What mindfulness teaching tells us is that we do not have to react to these thoughts as if they were the ultimate permanent truth, which we sometimes think they are when we experience them. In mindfulness, instead of reacting to our moment to moment experience, we cultivate a place for these thoughts and treat them as experiences in their own right. The practice of understanding this continuous process of impermanence is a fundamental pillar in mindfulness yoga practice.
In my yoga class, I invite my students to focus on their breathing throughout their practice and to use that breath as their anchor when the mind starts wandering off. I remind them again and again, to ensure that they are staying in the present moment, listening to their bodies and paying attention to what is happening on their mat.
I like to change my practice each week so students are able to experience a variety of different postures and sequences and don’t get used to doing the same old thing. I believe it’s important to challenge my students and encourage them to discover new boundaries. However, equally important is good alignment and each student works to their own ability. My voice is just a guide.
The majority of postures in yoga can be adapted to an individual’s needs, so don’t be put off if you are new to yoga or are working with an injury. There are always ways round the issue.
I always like to end the class with a seated meditation practice – a time to sit in stillness and silence, observing whatever arises.
I look forward to welcoming you to my class.