Yoga teaches us so much about the little things, that are really the big things. An amazing thing happened today. I held my son’s pet rat Spike, who was taking his last breaths. I was never a fan of rats, until my boys begged to bring one home. And being a lover of all things furry, I was converted.
What was really amazing about this moment, was that I was able to pause, and notice a creature’s life passing. I watched with sadness as this tiny being gave up. I felt gratitude for the happiness he brought my sons – and for life.
Earlier in yoga class, we had focused on being present to what is in this moment.
Here are 10 ways be more present on your mat:
1. Listen to your breath. Really listen. How does it sound as it crosses your throat, as it moves in and around you? Is your breath smooth or choppy today? Breath is always there for us, and we don’t even have to think about it. Practice a moment of gratitude for this breath, in this body, in this pose.
2. Notice the way your feet feel on the earth. Imagine rooting down through the entire bottom of your feet. Feel the energy coming up through your feet to the muscles of your legs. Express gratitude for the strong and healthy feet that are your foundation, and your primary mode of transportation in life.
3. Move and flow with your breath. Let each inhalation help you expand, or extend to a fuller expression of each pose. Let each exhalation help you sink, or surrender into a deeper place of sensation. Breath is rhythmic, and we can match our movements to our breath, even when we’re holding still.
4. Slow down and move with grace. Each placement of a hand on your mat can be an act of grace. Each step forward can be thoughtful and serene. Even in strong poses we can stand with calm strength. Notice how the entire feel of your practice changes when you slow down and notice each transition. Next time you get in or out of your car, you can practice this technique. Even ordinary errands can be extraordinary in the moment.
5. Feel your strength. It’s actually pretty amazing, the things your body can do. Instead of focusing on the more challenging or frustrating postures, notice and celebrate the ones you do well. Become aware of the strength in your body and soul.
6. Watch your thoughts come and go. Your mind doesn’t know what to do if it isn’t busy thinking. And the more you try to empty it, the more it tries to distract your peace. The human brain is only capable on one focused thought at any given time, so if that thought is “this breath” or “this sensation,” the shopping list gets pushed aside. Don’t get frustrated when it comes back, just breathe.
7. Be aware of any painful or overly uncomfortable sensations. These are like warning lights on the dashboard of your car. Pain is our body’s way of telling us something is not right. Where you are is where you are. Let it be OK to be there for today.
8. Imagine your heart opening to give and receive more. Many yoga poses are designed to open and stretch the muscles of the chest. We drive, type, sit, and stress with our arms in front of us and our head tilted forward. Yoga gives us opportunity to reverse this. To be open and stretched.To have a heart that is open to all that life has for us.
9. Close your eyes and sense the space around you. Sometimes, when my thoughts are relentless, and I can’t get out of my own head, I try to tune in to the sounds and feel of what’s around me. The sound of music, of air moving, of other people breathing around me. I am reminded that I am sharing the journey with others. Together we breathe, in this moment.
10. Visualize what it would feel like to experience this state of presence off your mat. Imagine a grocery store full of people who were living in a state of presence. Who chose things for their basket thoughtfully and lovingly. Who greeted others with eye contact. Who shopped in a state of gratitude for the food we readily have available. Eutopia? Yes. OK, how about this…imagine the next conversation you have. Really hear what the other person has to say. Imagine the impact on all of your relationships.
Today, more than one amazing thing happened. As I kissed my baby boy good night, I realized there were actually1440 amazing things going on around me today. 1440 minutes made up today. What did I miss?