Updated: Aug 31
If you've been to my yoga class, in-person or online, you would have heard me say to "always re-set yourself to the top of your mat". Why is that?
Simply put, I'm inviting you to practice active meditation, so you can tap into the deeper benefits of the class.
Let's start the explanation with this:
It is a reasonable assumption that it's easy to fall into the flow during a yoga class; to tune out all the extra input coming in through our senses, focus on the instructions and just melt into the moment.
However, it is more common for yoga students tune into what the teacher is doing, not even to what they are saying. The experience then becomes "copy/paste", which can quickly lead to frustration, self-judgement, irritation, and a general disenchantment of the practice.
Granted, we all learn differently - some are more attuned to aural instructions, some, to the visual. In copying the yoga teacher, though, students default into just doing the forms, literally, forgetting mindful breathing, purposeful engagement of muscles, or even just the conscious decision making of which poses to choose.
The poses a yoga teacher does are, while inspirational, are not necessarily what's appropriate for you. Conversely, just copying what the teacher does may not be enough either.
For example, I always look at my students arms when they're lifted. When I see limp arms, I always give the encouragement to engage them. I would give a small anatomy lesson as a "how to", give options for angles, give the reassurance that there's more to the angle choice (of the lifted arm) than mere flexibility, and give the benefits - all of which are invitations to observe what is happening to the body as it goes through the choices of the pose or from a limp to an engaged pose.
While the choice IS yours (to follow or not), know that when one starts observing, and not just copying, is when your practice elevates to add:
Focus & awareness (for the mind),
Kindness & acceptance (for the heart), and
Unconditional love & non-judgement (for the self).
All of these manifests through the body and the choices we make with our poses.
So, the "body" practice becomes a vehicle for us to elevate it to a holistic mind/heart/body practice - this is Active Meditation.
The state of Active Meditation
So, what's with the intro line, then, you ask.
Meditation is the practice of pin-point observation. While it is traditionally done in a seated pose, it is my belief (and has been actively used in my yoga classes) that we can tap into the state of meditation whenever and wherever we need it, even while moving.
Defaulting back to the top of your mat during a class is an easy way to start re-wiring the brain to actively observe - starting with where you are on your mat, the fullness of your breath and the choices you make.
Active Meditation, encapsulating the aforementioned bullet points, enables us to truly engage with what is happening in the moment because we can objectively choose how to engage.
It empowers us with the ability to choose how to react based on objectively observing details, information & sensory input. Off the mat, this grounds us so that we are not swept up into turmoil when stress triggers arise.
Here's an anecdote for you - I find that some of my best ideas come to me when I'm the shower. Anyone else experience that? We used to have a diver's board (plastic board with a pencil) hanging in the stall so that I can jot down what comes to mind. But even with that, I can get lost in my thoughts, finishing my shower without noticing if I've done everything! I would towel off and wonder if I've shampooed my hair or used my face wash!
It's frustrating, but I know what I've done, or rather, what I didn't do. I wasn't observing what I was doing; not paying attention, not in the present, and completely flying on auto. It's a pity because I quite like my showers; simple joys are important!
When I do observe what I'm doing, I derive more satisfaction from the act (whatever that is) because I'm engaged, present, and experiencing the joy that activity brings.
So, next time you're on the mat or doing anything else, really, actively meditate on it - observe, engage, be present, and rediscover yourself in the moment.