Mindfulness and wellness are some of the buzz words today. Over the past years, it has become popular ways to deal with stressful lifestyles and mental health concerns. One browse through the web, and you will see yoga teachers and wellness experts talking about the wonders of mindfulness—how it has helped them and why you should try.
It’s quite enticing to drop everything and copy what they are doing. However, one does not have to completely overhaul their busy and stressful life to achieve some sense of peace through mindfulness. There are more practical and more accessible ways to practice mindfulness in one’s day-to-day life.
But First, What is Mindfulness and how is it linked to Yoga?
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as the act of being in the moment – being conscious of what you are doing, where you are, and how you are feeling in the moment without judgment. It’s about not being reactive, neither is it about ignoring and escaping stressful situations.
Few other routines and activities talk about mindfulness, like yoga. As yoga teachers guide students through poses, they encourage students to take long, deep breaths and paying attention to how the body is feeling. Yoga is not like any other performance sports where the body has to look or move a certain way to be able to say that you are doing it well. Instead, yoga counts on the individual to be aware of their breath and body movement and try poses as they see fit. The focus is on what is happening in the present moment (process) rather than the outcome (the pose).
Yoga and mindfulness seem to be intrinsically linked. Although many experts recommend doing these together, there are ways to practice each one without the other. One of the reasons for this attachment is that yoga is the “embodiment” of mindfulness. But there are ways to practice mindfulness within your regular daily activities. Mindfulness can be incorporated into people’s daily activities, while yoga can be a purely athletic exercise. Like any other skill, mindfulness is a skill that can be honed. The more you practice mindfulness, the better you will be at it, and the easier it will be in the future.
How It Works
To put it simply, mindfulness teaches people to be in the moment and make the most out of it. Be in the moment and letting go of judgments, distractions, expectations, and lingering thoughts about the past (whether distant or recent). Instead, focus on your experience—what your mind and body are telling you through your senses.
Mindfulness may require you to slow down more than usual. For beginners, start by doing one mindfulness activity every day for a few minutes (i.e., deep breathing, walking, or running). Incorporating mindfulness into any sort of physical activity can be quite enlightening.
Exercises That Do Not Have To Do With Yoga
When people talk about mindfulness, they usually think about people sitting in a lotus position, meditating for an hour at dawn, or doing a series of yoga poses first thing in the morning. But, unfortunately, this is not all that mindfulness is about.
To incorporate mindfulness into daily life, you don’t need anything other than time. Do it first as part of a morning routine, part of an exercise routine, or even while doing chores. Here are some activities that can be done without having to roll out the yoga mat:
In the morning or on weekends:
1. Deep breathing exercise.
Sit upright, lengthen your spine and relax the shoulders. Breath in through the nose and into the base of the lungs. Expand the lungs while keeping the shoulders relaxed. Release the breath slowly. Repeat 3 to 5 times. This can be done every hour if needed.
2. A few minutes in nature.
Those who have a balcony or a garden may want to spend a few minutes sitting down. Breathe in, smell the freshly cut grass and the fresh air, and as you exhale, look at the plants and the flowers. Before launching into calls and emails, give yourself those few minutes of peace and quiet. Having something beautiful to look at helps, for sure!
3. Walking outdoors (alone or with a pet).
Have a change of scenery, give the brain a break before diving into the workday. Hit two birds with one stone by taking your pet with you. This can also be your exercise for the day.
If there’s limited space to do anything, find a quiet spot at home. Take a seat and close your eyes while taking a deep breath. Focus on the breath and try not to let your to-do lists and schedule for the day take over your mind.
5. Body scan.
This is a form of meditation, but instead of focusing on the breath, the focus is on how the body feels. Get into a meditative position and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths to prepare. Pay attention to your toes, to your feet, your legs, and work your way up to the head. Take a few breaths at each body part. Try to feel the sensations (Is there pain? Tingling? Numbness?). This process may take up to 30 minutes. If the mind wanders, try to go back to the body part where you stopped, then proceed.
As a part of a fitness and wellness routine:
Head out straight into the wild. Pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells that you will encounter. Be alert lest you encounter a wild animal while on the trail!
When running mindfully, mind your form and your speed. Pay attention to the body’s response as you go through inclined routes or increase your speed.
When doing chores and errands:
8. Buying groceries.
Pay attention to what you’re putting in the cart, ask yourself: do you really need it? Are you going to use it? Is it part of your grocery list? It may be repetitive but you are focusing and being mindful of the task at hand.
Take reasonably-sized bites, chew the food well and appreciate the flavors of the food. Take full advantage of the 30 minutes to 1 hour you have and really enjoy the meal. Stop when your hunger is satiated.
Find a recipe you would like to try, prepare the ingredients, and cook a meal for yourself or your family. Taste the dish during each step, and season it well. Avoid instant and ready-made meals. Do this at least once a week to start.
Take advantage of the opportunities to focus on what your senses are picking up on while doing these exercise and tasks. Pay attention to what your senses perceive, and do not distract yourself with music blasting into your ears or taking on the phone with a friend. Ideally, one would devote 30 minutes to 1 hour every day to mindfulness practice. However, even just 5 minutes is enough. The point is to do it every day, even if it’s in small doses.
Mindfulness helps people focus on what is happening to them at the moment. Whether they are doing yoga, doing breathing exercises, or eating mindfully, they become more in tune with what they are doing at that exact moment. People rush through their daily routines and try to work themselves to the ground to achieve some milestones at work or in school. Being busy and productive has led many people to burnout and caused many mental health concerns. Continued practice of mindfulness changes the way one thinks, which can influence their actions.
Mindfulness Does Not Solve Everything
Much has been written about the benefits of practicing mindfulness. However, there are limitations to the benefits of mindfulness. Here are some of the reasons:
You have an idea of what a mindful practice should be and what it looks like, and when you don’t achieve that, you get frustrated.
2. Too much, too soon.
You have a hectic lifestyle and are turning to mindfulness because you’re on the brink of burning out. You make a sudden lifestyle change to address that, canceling major appointments and commitments to spend an hour every morning meditating and doing yoga. This is not sustainable and might just exacerbate the current situation.
3. Don’t know where to start.
Beginners should start small. Start with a 5-minute mindfulness exercise and do it every day. Then, slowly work your way up to 30 minutes to an hour if your schedule permits.
4. Unresolved traumas.
If any unresolved issues from the past are causing you distress and anxiety, mindfulness will only help manage the stress and anxiety. The root cause of the problem will have to be resolved separately.
Mindfulness helps people become more self-aware by encouraging them to slow down and be in the moment. We’ve talked about how easy it is to incorporate mindfulness into one’s routines, but do keep in mind the mindfulness has to be deliberate. That’s what makes the difference. No mindfulness practice is perfect. If you find yourself getting distracted or wandering at any point, simply stops yourself and pick up where you left off. Take it easy and be kind to yourself. It’s not easy to stay focused.
Article by Patricia Alfonso