Five Ways to Stay Present On and Off the Mat

Hi friends! I hope everyone’s week has been a good one.  I’m currently on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for a mini getaway.  We are visiting here and Savannah, Georgia until Monday.  It’s been beautiful so far…stay tuned for recaps next week!

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In my first few months of teaching yoga I of course find myself telling my students constantly to “be present.” Boy is that a loaded two word phrase.  If you are new to yoga you may wonder what does ‘be present’ even mean?  Why should I ‘be present’?  How will this help me?

Being present is taking your attention to exactly what is happening in this exact moment.  Focusing on the here and now.

The practice (yes it is a practice) of finding presence is what kept me coming back to my mat over and over when I first found yoga.  Finding presence is something that I have taken off the mat with me and into life.

Learning to be present can help relieve worries about the past or future.  It can be highly effective in reducing stress and suppress feelings of anxiety.

Here are a few ways To practice being present on and off the mat:

Focus on your breathing.  Start to notice your natural breath.  The length of your inhales and exhales.  Where are you breathing from? Your belly or your chest? Now start to deepen your breath.  Fill up your low belly, feel your inhale travel up your torso and expand your ribs, let it carry into your chest and pause for a moment at the top. Exhale.

In challenging poses on your mat direct you attention to this practice of taking a full breath.  Off the mat, maybe when facing a stressful situation at work or at home, practice this deep breathing and you will feel yourself naturally come into a calmer state.

Get outside.  Being outdoors and breathing in the fresh air always helps me be in the moment.  Taking notice of the breeze sweeping over your body and through your hair.  Breathing in the smells and Listening to the sounds around you, whatever they may be.  Taking five minutes to feel your feet planted into the ground knowing that you are being held by this earth.  No matter what happened before or what happens after the earth will support you unconditionally.

Sweat.  Whenever I’m in savasana, I turn my attention to the drops of sweat slowly falling from my head.  This has always helped me stay present and keeps any distracting thoughts from creeping in.  Literally focusing on one drop at a time as it falls from my forehead down my face  on to my neck making it’s way down my chest.  I’m telling you it works!

Move.  It might go without saying but getting your body to move is one of the easiest ways to destress and forget about distracting worries or fears.  On your mat this is easy but even during other forms of movement it can be achieved.  On a run try and focus on each foot hitting the ground one after the other.  In the gym try and focus on the engagement of your muscles as you lift your weights or pull on that bar.  Feel your body working and what it’s capable of.

Acknowledge and let go.  Alright let’s face it our human brains are extremely active.  It can feel close to impossible to actually turn them off.  We all know this and should simply acknowledge it.  As you try to become present thoughts will inevitably come up.  Instead of getting frustrated simply acknowledge those thoughts, let them go, and return back to your breathing or anything else I mentioned above.

Learning to be present has so many benefits.  The Huffington Post calls this practice mindfulness meditation.  They found research that even proves it reduces stress levels.

So the next time you are feeling stressed or anxious and worried, try one of these techniques and let me know how it turns out.

Off to Savannah! Have a great weekend everyone!

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3 Comments

  1. I absolutely love these tips, Kelsey! I love the idea of being grounded and the earth supporting you and holding you up. One thing I have trouble with is breathing- not sure why, but this is something that is really challenging for me in class. Something to work on!

  2. Pingback: How to Get Through a Travel Dry Spell | The Primal Yogi

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