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What is Mindfulness?

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By Yvonna Wright

We are hearing a lot about mindfulness in this day and age and even though it’s an ancient practice, in the science of yoga as well as Buddhism, more and more people are incorporating it into their everyday lives. But what is it exactly and why is it a concept to even consider? According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditational practices.

It helps one focus only on the task at hand and keeps us in the present mo- ment. I find myself running around all day picking up kids from school, taking them to activities, dashing to work (or in my case auditions in the city), all the while multi-tasking to increase the amount of things I can get done in a day. But at the end of a day like this, I usually experience a feeling of emptiness and an overwhelming sense unfullfillment. Not to mention losing important things like the car keys or forgetting my kid’s gymnastic costume. Even though I finished all the errands on my list, why do these accomplishments make me feel hollow?

One reason could be that during all of this running around instead of really being present for every task, I was thinking about what I had to do next, therefore taking me out of the present moment. The multiple distractions that occur all day can not only make you experience a life stuck in mediocrity, but increase a sense of resentment and sadness. According to The Oxford Mindfulness Centre at the University of Oxford, “more recent work has led to major breakthroughs in understanding how mindfulness can reduce suicidality in depression, emotional turbulence in bipolar disorder and serious health anxiety.”

Even a simple task of doing the dishes or driving to work can feel fulfilling if you practice being in your body at all times. One way to bring mindfulness into your life in every moment is to concentrate on your breath. Feel how when you inhale through your diaphragm, the chest and lungs expand and when you exhale, feel the air move out of the body. The important thing to remember in this practice is that thoughts (even bad ones) come and go and not to get attached to them. Be compassionate with yourself and know that you are not your thoughts.

 

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Another quick and easy way to come into the present moment is just to look around you and describe in very short sentences what you see, such as “a red brick building” or a “blue truck.” This is especially helpful if you are distracted by a disturbing event and have to get in your car to reach a destination.

Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness practice means living in the moment and awakening to all of the simple beauty that life has to offer. Any Yoga can and should be practiced with mindfulness and the Sun Salutation series is a great way to connect your breath to movements and cultivate a feeling of being present in your body.

To perform the sequence, start standing with feet hips’ width apart, with your hands together at your heart. Inhale and lift your arms overhead, then exhale while lowering the arms down and fold your torso over bringing the hands beside the feet. Next, inhale and arch your back slightly with the fingertips or palms glued to the floor, and exhale while bringing your left foot back into a lunge. Inhale forward to Plank, then exhale and lower yourself into a push up position with arms bent and elbows tight to the body. On an inhalation, arch your back up as you straighten your arms into Upward Dog. Exhale back to Downward Dog; step the left foot forward on an inhalation into Lunge. Swing the right leg forward to bend over the torso with straight legs on an exhalation, then lift your torso and reach your arms overhead on an inhalation. Finally, lower your arms on an exhalation and return to your starting point.

This is only a half-round, so you’ll need to repeat the sequence, but with your right foot stepping back to lunge first to complete a full round. Remember to take it slowly and concentrate on the breath entering and leaving your body. If you start to get confused or fatigued, take a rest in child’s pose, all the while listening to your breathing.

Namaste!

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