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Mindfulness and Yoga: How to Become an Observer

When people think of mindfulness, they often think about meditation and are under the impression that it means you have to stop thinking. It’s not the case! Mindfulness means that you become an observer. You learn to cultivate awareness. Mindfulness and yoga can work together to enable you to practice mindfulness. Today, I explain what mindfulness is, how yoga is related to mindfulness, what mindful yoga is, and take you through a mindfulness yoga practice.

What Is Mindfulness?

This is how the Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness:

A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

It’s the practice of being aware of what you are doing and where you are.

How Is Yoga Related to Mindfulness?

Mindfulness and yoga help cultivate awareness of your body, inner world, outer world, and the present moment. You learn to focus and turn off distractions as you observe what you are doing.

What Is Mindful Yoga?

Mindfulness is an integral part of yoga. When you practice yoga, you learn to observe your breath and body. You fully internalize the sensations in your body. You are aware of your posture and alignment. Not only that, but you observe the mind-body connection and observe the feelings that your practice brings up. This mindful awareness can become a habit you carry in your daily activities. That is the beauty of the connection between mindfulness and yoga.

How to Practice Mindful Yoga

Consider that there is a little bit more to mindful yoga than “trying to pay attention” when doing yoga. There are two essential elements to your mindful yoga practice: body scans and your teacher’s instructions.

Body Scans

As you move from pose to pose, remember to observe how the experience feels in your body. Notice your bodily sensations without judgment or attachment. When your mind wanders, be curious about it. Ask yourself what the distraction is about. Then, bring your attention back to the yoga pose.

Teacher’s Instructions

The teacher will help by asking questions like:

  • How is your breath? Shallow or deep?
  • Where in your body do you feel the sensations?
  • What kind of sensations are you feeling? Heat? Discomfort? Energy? Opening?
  • Are you present in the moment?

How to Bring Your Mindfulness to Your Daily Life

Mindfulness and yoga together will enable you to change how you experience your daily life. Here are some practical ways to be more mindful as you go about your daily activities. Try these exercises:

  • Remember to breathe. As you learn to pay attention to your breathing, you will notice you tend to breathe shallow much of the time. Take a few deep breaths.
  • Pay attention to your posture. Remembering your posture is hard. That’s why it’s a good way to start practicing being aware of your body. Stand tall, lift your chest up, and bring your shoulders back.
  • Notice your environment. Look around, and pay attention to the sounds, smells, and colors in your surroundings.
  • Observe your feelings. No need to judge or change them. Simply feel your feelings. Be curious about their origins.

Living in the moment is a process, and the process is the journey. When your thoughts wander towards the past or the future, it’s not a “bad” thing. It gives you an awareness of yourself. You can plainly see and realize what your brain does. For more guidance in using mindfulness to change your life, check out my How to Master Your Mindset in 7 Days PDF Guide.

Yoga for Mindfulness Follow Along Routine

I designed this yoga mindfulness practice to help you learn to be more aware o your body when you practice yoga. The routine is fairly short because if you are anything like me, you will make excuses not to practice mindful yoga unless it is a short session. I picked three excellent yoga poses to surrender: mountain pose, tree pose, and low lunge.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

The most basic and foundational pose of yoga is tadasana or mountain pose. It is a simple standing position, but it can be challenging since most of us don’t have a proper posture.

Start by bringing your attention to your feet, about hip distance apart or underneath your femur. Lift your toes, spread them out, and bring them down one at a time. Circle your body to feel how your weight shifts on your feet. Bring your weight back to the middle and feel your weight evenly distributed on your feet. Alternate bending your knees a few times and bringing them back to a neutral position. Feel your knee caps lifting slightly. Draw your tailbone down. It will lengthen your spine and engage your abdomen. Lift your chest up and feel your ribcage lifting up and away from your pelvis. Keep your abdomen soft but engaged. Slide your chin slightly back. Take five deep breaths. Release any tension that doesn’t belong.

Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

Place your hands on your hips and raise your right foot high on your left thigh. Ensure that your pelvis is level (don’t tilt your hips). You are pressing your right foot and your left leg together. When you feel steady, lift your arms up overhead while bringing your shoulders back in your shoulder sockets.

Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

Step your right foot in front of you. Lower your left knee and untuck your toes. Lift your chest up. Tuck in your chest slightly. Draw your shoulders down and bring your hands in prayer. Extend your arms and bring your pinkies towards to ceiling.

Mindfulness and Yoga Follow-Along Video

I haven’t done yoga specifically for mindfulness, yet my stretching yoga routines have helped me become more mindful. My post 5 Yoga Stretches for Quads Plus Follow-Along Routine includes a list of my current follow-along stretching routines.