Mindfulness, Yoga and Meditation


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Zoning Out During Yoga Class

I recently overheard a couple of people talking about slow versus fast-paced yoga classes. One person said she likes slow, restorative classes. The other expressed a preference for power or vinyasa because the fast pace allows her to “shut off” her brain. Many yoga students seem to agree with the second person. They like classes that let them slip into what I call yoga zombie mode, a kind of zoned-out mental state that’s more easily achieved in fast-moving classes. Here’s my take on slow versus fast yoga.

The fundamental purpose of yoga, the original purpose, is to condition the body for long periods of meditation. It helps us build stronger bodies so that we can build stronger minds. Yoga itself can be a form of meditation and helps us become more mindful.

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and instead of dealing with stress, we shut off from it. But when we do, we don’t get to work through it. After yoga we feel a temporary improvement because of the physical exertion we just put ourselves through, but we can achieve the mental clarity to deal with stress when we keep our minds active during practice.

Be a Shepherd of Your Mind and Body

I’m learning to be a shepherd. That’s right, a shepherd. I go out to a ranch with my dog once a week and learn how to work with sheep and goats. As a shepherd, you must be aware of so much, including your flock, your dog and your state of mind. One wrong move and your sheep could get hurt or your dog might get too excited and chase them into the next county.

Sheep are naturally fearful. They’re always aware that something might be close by, ready to attack and eat them. We have fears too, but we sometimes like to ignore them. However, if we don’t work through our fears, they can get worse. We can become like sheep: anxious and scared. When we live this way, we’re more likely to suffer from chronic pain, exhaustion, depression and other illnesses.

Instead of zoning out in yoga, we want to maintain awareness of our breath, noticing how it changes in each pose. We can acknowledge our thoughts, especially the stressful ones, and then we’ll be able to release them. Mindfulness can help us see opportunities and find solutions. Zoning out just postpones the work of dealing with problems and perpetuates anxiety.