Where does your mind go during a yoga class? Are you thinking of your next meal, coffee, or any tasks that you need to do after the class? Or are you looking at the others in the room, comparing your flexibility and strength to them? Does it make you feel motivated or frustrated? Or are you spacing out, yawning at the teacher without noticing it?
You can tell this is not helping your yoga practice or your peace of mind. So here is a better solution: why don’t you stop your inner chatterbox and direct your efforts to a more nourishing place? Instead of jumping from one thought to the next, start to observe, and you will be surprised what you can figure out about yourself.
When you are in a posture, which is super uncomfortable or demanding, and you are busy thinking, “When is it over! This feels forever! I’ll never take this class again!” Whilst you are debating with yourself if you should give up or just longing for it to be over, try to redirect these efforts and you will see that these postures can be fun, with the side effect that you will learn a lot about yourself.
Instead of looking for exit strategies, stick with it and become the observer. See why it is uncomfortable, why do you feel it is demanding, where does it hurt, and how you can make it more sustainable?
Experiment with your breath, if you slow it down in these moments, does anything change? Are you experiencing sensations? Is it a full-on stretch or shaking muscles? Just become aware of them and see if anything changes the longer you pay attention to them. Find out how your mind is working, your patterns, how you think, how you react to your thinking, and what emotions are triggered by your thoughts.
– JON KABAT-ZINN
What are the benefits of being the observer?
When you narrow down your focus, your mind will calm down, allowing you to see the discomfort instead of just trying to cope with it. You become aware of why it is uncomfortable, and you can make peace with the discomfort on a conscious level. If you can deal with a difficult posture, you can do anything in life! Conquering challenging poses, which you thought would never be possible, gives you freedom and a sense of the possibilities that other impossible changes in your life might be within your grasp. You become courageous.
If your mind is focused, ‘clarity’ follows. You start to feel what you want, what is right and wrong, without the interference of your monkey mind, jumping from one thought to the next uncoordinatedly.
When we observe ourselves in a yoga practice, we get to know our inner workings. We learn how to master our mind, and how to relax in difficult situations. We learn to trust ourselves, and we start to figure out who we truly are.
How do you know it is working?
When your mind is calmer, stress won’t affect you as much as it used to. You can see the bigger picture instead of getting hung up on the little things. You start acting instead of re-acting. You might become more patient with yourself and the people around you. Your anxiety levels might drop, and you will be more at peace with yourself.