THE MINDFULNESS MOVEMENT
The health and fitness industry is being slowly revolutionised by the mindfulness movement, with a shift in perspective that is evolving toward a view of health as being a holistic concept that should acknowledge and encompass all aspects of the individual; body, mind and soul to achieve the greatest benefit and sense of overall "wellness". New facilities in Newcastle such as Urth Fitness provide this holistic approach to fitness, offering specific programs, tailored facilities and training in support of wellness and mindfulness as a lifestyle.
Although these concepts are only just beginning to gain momentum within the industry, the knowledge that the journey to wellness and wholeness is one that seeks to service all aspects of the individual is not news to the ancient practice of Yoga. Yogis have enjoyed the multi-dimensional health benefits of a dedicated yoga practice for thousands of years.
A modern-day yoga practice can cultivate the same sense of wholeness and vitality as that of the great swami's and gurus of long ago - and thanks to mindfulness techniques and meditations that fit so perfectly within the Yoga modality - there is no need to don the saffron loincloth and live in a cave. Philosophically many of the principles of Yoga and Mindfulness are so closely aligned that they are at best inseparably intertwined and at least perfectly complimentary. Yoga provides opportunities for self reflection in both stillness and fluid movement and can be seen as a form of movement meditation.
“Mindfulness practice means that we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness and equanimity right here and right now” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness in its simplest form is purely about "noticing" without judgement. In mindful yoga practice, we observe our breath, our physical sensations, and we practise self-acceptance in the light of these observations. Noticing ourselves without judgement creates the space for two things to occur. Firstly, it keeps our attention firmly plugged into the present, from moment to moment, as each bodily sensation flourishes and blooms, and each breath flows on from the last in a smooth, unbroken chain. Secondly, it draws our attention inward, cultivating our mindful connection with self and providing us opportunities to develop self-awareness and acceptance.
Mindfulness yoga serves to connect and align the practising yogi with a sense of self-awareness and physical conditioning; illuminating the mind-body connection on an integrated continuum. Cultivating this mind-body connection on the yoga mat employs mindfulness and breath awareness meditations, and visualisation techniques to develop proprioception (awareness of the body as it relates to and moves within its external environment) as well as interception (awareness of sensations within the body and the internal senses). Yoga is perfectly suited to mindfulness practices as it creates opportunities for the mind to focus in on the sensations and subtle shifts within the body as it transitions in the movement from pose to pose.
I have come to see, both from my own experience on the mat and also as a yoga teacher, that practising yoga with mindful awareness can be a powerful combination that significantly touches on all components of the Self to heal, rejuvenate, strengthen, restore and enlighten. Yoga can create all of these opportunities within a safe space. The mindfulness practice of "being present" and self-aware can be both liberating and, at times confronting but within the parameters of the Yoga modality, a sense of nurturing and self-acceptance is generated. The overall Yoga experience allows expression and release of energy both physically and emotionally in a safe, non-judgemental space. Commitment to this practice will bring health and vitality not only to the physical body of the practising yogi but will spill over into other aspects of their life, positively affecting their relationships, mental health and quality of life in general.