In last week's newsletter I wrote Why Do You Practice Yoga?, and I talked about how the main why reason I practice is because yoga helps me calm my mind. This week I'm sharing thoughts about how to plan and optimize your yoga practice to calm your mind. The first thing to know is that you need to find the right class. If you feel that you have a very active mind, with your thoughts jumping around from thought to thought and distraction to distraction, you need to find a class that provides plenty of movement. If you were to attend a Gentle or Relax & Restore class, the pace would be too slow for you and you'd likely feel agitated and frustrated.
We yoga teachers often say that the beauty of yoga is that it meets you where you're at. That means that there's a type of yoga practice for every need and for every goal.
In the case of a person with an active mind, we meet the student at their present state with an active practice. For beginners, I recommend a Hatha I class. For more experienced yogis or athletic people, I recommend a Heated Hatha or Hatha Flow class.
The student will feel most comfortable in the active class because their mind naturally functions at a more active level. As they become consistent in their practice and are able to improve their focus on breathing and body awareness, they will begin to see that their mind pace will begin to slow. They will begin to feel more calm and peaceful.
If this slower mind pace is the desired goal, they can continue in these active classes. But if they desire even more calmness of mind, I recommend transitioning to a slower-paced practice. From Hatha Flow, transition down to Hatha I, from Hatha I down to Gentle.
Regardless of the class type, if your goal is calming your mind, it's important to train your mind as well as your body during the practice. Throughout class, focus on breathing peacefully. Focus on slow deep inhales and long exhales. Shift your awareness from your thoughts into your body. Deeply observe the sensations your body feels in each pose. What is stretching? What is strengthening? What is lengthening, tilting, twisting? What feels good? What feels bad? Explore your body.
The purpose of all this focusing is that it encourages your brain to think on one topic. It helps your brain slow down. When you practice a challenging balancing pose, you're so focused on not falling down that you don't have space in your brain to think about your work stress or what you're cooking for dinner. You're just "in" your body and your brain is calm.
After consistent, regular yoga practice, if you desire to calm your mind even further, the next step is meditation. I'll talk more about that in the next couple of weeks. Or, consider joining us next month at the Finding Your Superpowers Yoga Retreat :)
Until then, I'd love to hear from you! Please click over to the blog and tell me about your experience with yoga practice and its effect on calming your mind. Also feel welcome ask any questions on this topic.