I’m grateful every single day for the gift of my yoga practice. Not only because it keeps my highly compromised body in working order (at least most of the time), but because the skills developed over 13 years of physical practice opened the door to mindful living.
Just how does downward facing dog relate to an easeful approach to everyday life? Mindfulness is essentially about paying attention on purpose. My yoga lineage is alignment based, which means I’ve spent a whole lot of time paying attention to where my big toe mound is and what direction my femur bone is rotating, among other things. Over the years I’ve become quite good at paying attention to my various body parts – how they feel and what they’re doing — and that learning is a pretty useful thing.
My yoga practice also taught me to listen and trust the signals my body is sending. Every time I’ve had a major life upheaval, my back goes out – divorce, relocation, all those big fear moments. I’ve seen the same signal system show up in the posture and injuries of my clients. The body never lies; you just need to learn to listen.
On a more subtle level, yoga taught me that my breath is a perfect indicator of stress level. Shallow short breathing means I’m tensing my gut and running in fight or flight mode, a frequent occurrence if I’m over-efforting, stressed or in chronic pain. On the other hand, easeful, full body breathing can move me into a more relaxed state.
That’s why full body breathing and tapping into the body’s natural relaxation response are the first skills I introduce in my 8-Week Optimal Mindset course. It’s amazing how much difference a nice, deep breath makes — check it out for yourself. Paying attention really does pay off.