On Being Present
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
Practicing yoga is a beautiful way to check in with ourselves. How we treat ourselves and others on the mat, how we respond to frustration or excitement on the mat is likely how we respond to these feelings off the mat as well. There’s probably never going to be a time where we’re perfectly, consistently living in the present moment, but there are definitely benefits to doing so, and some tricks to get there.
When we’re able to be present on the mat, every pose presents itself more fully. There are no self-deprecating thoughts from falling out of a balancing pose, no anxiety about an approaching arm balance. It’s just this pose—astavakrasana or savasana—right now.
Off the mat, we’re able to listen fully, creating stronger friendships and relationships. We’re able to work more efficiently and productively. We’re able to be grateful for right now. We can appreciate our surroundings and circumstances. We’re not depressed about the past nor anxious about the future.
Tips for Being Present
1. When you’re in class, be in class. Every time you step into the studio is a challenge to be present. The next time you step on your mat, observe. Without judging your thoughts or labeling “good” or “bad” to moments you notice are or are not fully present, just notice where your tendency lies.
You may have learned a pose or a transition differently in the past but for today, try it how the instructor is teaching. Rather than anticipate the next movement, worry about the upcoming pose or dwell on a pose you did earlier in class, just feel the current shape. When you’re in a pose, be fully in it.
2. Recognize monkey mind. When your brain bounces between thoughts past, present and future, first acknowledge it. It might help to write down whatever is bouncing around and an action of how to solve or work on that thing. Then touch back with what’s happening right now.
3. Meditate. Sit and be still for a few minutes each day. Start with five minutes and work your way up to 20 or 30 minutes. Observe your thoughts.
4. Cleanse what’s taking up space. Unnecessary or toxic things, people and thoughts can clutter our minds. Decide what is working well and keep that, then get rid of the rest.
5. Set goals and find gratitude. Where do you see yourself in one year? In ten? What do you want out of life? How are you going to get there? These goals can change frequently, but having a plan for the future can help ease worry and allow focus to rest on the present. Have a journal to write something you’re grateful for every day. When you can identify gratitude for people, events, feelings and things in your life currently, it can be easier to stay focused on the now.
This was originally published on the Yoga Pod Denver Lodo blog.