There are many techniques to practice mindfulness. Just as we exercise our biceps to get strong arms, we can exercise our minds to become mindful – learning to be more aware, more present, more focussed and more accepting.
Here are 3 very simple techniques that you can do just about anywhere including waiting for a bus, standing at the printer or waiting for your PC to log on in the morning.
“By becoming aware of what’s going on at any given time, we can appreciate our life more fully instead of rushing through it. Habitual thoughts can cause stress, depression, anger, anxiety and self-doubt and stop us from appreciating the only time that matters, and that time is of course now”
1. Standing – Mountain Pose
- Stand tall with your feet on the floor at hip width, knees a little bent and shoulders relaxed.
- Press the four corners of your feet into the ground. Notice where your weight is distributed on your feet – toes, inner and outer edges, the arches and the heels
- Feel your feet on the ground – Notice the weight of your body pushing you towards earth and the crown of your head lifting towards the sky.
- Notice the length of your spine, the reach through the crown of your head, the length through your neck, the elongation of your spine.
- Have a sense of the space around your body.
- Close your eyes and try to find your centre – move your weight over each part of your foot – try to find a balanced place in the centre noticing if you find stillness or maybe you continually make small shifts and movements to maintain your balance – there is no right or wrong.
- See what happens as you stand there – feel the sensations in the body, the breath – do you feel a desire to do something, are you happy just to stand and notice sensations? Stay until you feel you would like to move and then stay another 8 breaths and see how you feel then eg. Frustrated? Contented? Balanced? Uncomfortable?
- The simple practice of bringing your awareness to the ground helps to bring us into the present moment and is very effective for calming the mind.
2. Raised arms above your head
- Interlace your fingers and reach them upwards – the palms turning towards the ceiling.
- Extend your arms fully and lock your elbows (if you are physically able to).
- Feel the length through the arms as you push down through the sit-bones and keep reaching upwards
- Hold here for 2-3 minutes.
- As you breath, remain alert to your breath including the speed, depth and quality of your breath. As sensations arise in your shoulders notice how you start to react to it.
- Notice when your mind strays, and return to the sensation of the breath or any other physical sensation, such as stretching, or your muscles tiring.
- Notice how your arms tire and any physical sensations that creep into your body – does your body start to repel the movement? Stay alert to the subtle sensations within the body – do the sensations start to create a battle and if so, what are they – do you become irritated, impatient, bored, does your mind wander or can you keep coming back to the breath and using the breath to stay with the discomfort in the body.
- Can you release tension by focusing on the breath?
- This practice helps your remain fully mindful of any arising sensations in the mind and body.
- NB. Do not practice this if you have headaches or low blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure do not hold this pose for longer than 15 seconds.
3. Shoulder rolls
- Gently lift both shoulders up toward your ears, then take them forward and then down, and back – continuing to make small circles.
- Notice any places that you have tension or tightness.
- Breathe softly and calmly.
- Ensure you don’t force the movements – as the shoulders move coordinate your breath and movements and let the breath lead the pace of the movements.
- Keep your awareness with the sensations and your breath.
- Notice if your breath “hardens” or if you hold your breath as you coordinate the movements.
- After several movements check in to see if your mind has started to wander.
- A natural tendency for the body is to start to wander when it feels it “knows” how to do something.
- See if you can keep bringing your mind back to the beginners mind – continually feeling, exploring and noticing all sensations in the body.
As you become more adept at coordinating the breath and movement this will naturally follow through in your everyday life and assist you to remain more calm and relaxed. It will enable you to notice more readily how calm breath can assist with creating a calmer mind.
Mindfulness is an ancient Buddhist practice that teaches us the art of learning or re-learning how to be present; how to be fully engaged in this moment.
Bringing your awareness into the present moment, of noticing and accepting what is happening right now without judgment or reaction can be practiced anytime during a yoga practice or during the day.