The lights are dim. The air smells fragrant as if a diffuser emitting ‘eau de lemongrass’ has just been turned off. The sweet sounds of an angelic voice in Hindi float down around you.
You hear your yoga instructor Sara say, “Bring your awareness into the entire length of the back of your body,” which brings you out of your reverie for just a moment. You do as she says. It’s almost like magic how a moment ago you were ‘just laying on the floor,’ but now you know and really feel yourself laying on the floor. Just with that little cue to bring your awareness to the back of the body, you are totally and completely, there.
You continue through the opening meditation of your favourite yoga class, following the cues and when the time finally comes to open your eyes, you feel completely in the moment. And not only that, you feel as though you could do anything, overcome anything and that you have regained control of yourself. The rest of the hour flows by, as does your body and your breath. You float out of the studio, blowing kisses to Sara and wishing all your yoga friends a wonderful evening.
As you walk home with a smile on your lips, you’re amazed yet again. How did this happen? You came into the studio today, frazzled by your morning of packing-lunches-gone-wrong, a nightmarish commute, a meeting with your boss where you could bet your life that she was talking in tongues. And now, just a few hours later, all that has melted away. It seems like the work of witchcraft. Did Sara cast a spell over you? And then you realize, no. All this… this feeling of calm and peace and empowerment, it is all coming from deep within you. YOU created this. YOU made this happen. YOU have learned how to be mindful, truly mindful, allowing yourself to be in this present moment.
Be Present. Be Here Now. I am Here. Mindfulness.
Scientists, experts, researchers and the like have made a connection between mindfulness and anxiety. The gist being that when we are mindful, meaning, being completely in the present moment, we are less likely to be anxious. This makes sense when we take a look at the ‘Timeline of Anxiety.’ Those of us who spend time ruminating on decisions or actions that we have taken that had a less-than-favourable outcome, or situations that have occurred that we have been drawn into via proximity to the chaos, tend to live in the past. We tend to replay a situation over and over again in our minds, ad nauseam and not just the situation that occurred, but we also look at other various outcomes ‘if only’ we had done this or that differently. We beat ourselves up, knock ourselves down and trash-talk ourselves- for something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
Ruminating is different than having regrets. Okay, you made a bad decision, okay, you had a lapse in judgement for a moment. You are a human being, living a human experience. We all make mistakes. Some of these mistakes seem minor and some seem catastrophic. The reality of the situation is, once you do something, you can’t undo it. It’s done. Living with regret, with the conversation in the mind that begins with “if only I had,” or “if only I hadn’t,” leads to a vicious cycle of guilt, shame and self-hatred. Ruminating and regret are the perfect pair for living in the past. Living in the past and constantly reminding ourselves of our mistakes causes us anxiety, as well as the inability to be compassionate, kind and forgiving of oneself.
As we proceed along the continuum of anxiety and head towards the future, those of us who live in the future also tend to be anxious people. Fearing and worrying about what will happen in the future, our minds consumed with ‘what-ifs.’ These ‘what-ifs’ begin small and then cyclone out of control. Imagine some fallen leaves on the ground on a fall day. The wind picks up and blows the leaves around a little bit. The wind picks up a bit more and suddenly and the leaves are lifted completely off the ground, swirling around in a mini-funnel, picking up whatever bits lay around it, until it’s all swirling out of control. These are your ‘what-if’ thoughts. They start out innocent enough and then before you know it, they are completely out of control, taking you deep into a vortex of panic…AND none of these things have even happened! These are just stories, nightmares if you will, that you are telling yourself.
Which leaves us in the present moment. The right here, right now. The easiest way to stay in the present moment, is by being aware of all aspects of yourself at every given moment; being aware of your mind, your emotions, your body, your energy level and your breath.
The three letters of the word YOGA, YOG, actually mean ‘union.’ If you scroll through different yoga-based accounts on Instagram, there seems to be a misconception that ‘yoga’ is all about standing on your head, or contorting your body into pretzel like formations. This is untrue. Yoga is about being aware, a witness if you will, of yourself, all the different parts of who you are that make up the one whole of your own true self.
The awareness of self that is learned on the mat is a process. It is a practice, hence why yogis refer to it as ‘their practice.’ It is not a quick fix to keep you in the present, a pill or a potion, and the beauty is, the more you practice the more you want to practice because that which you learn about yourself along the way is mind-blowing.