Lately much has been promoted about mindfulness and the power of now or yet to live in the present moment. I have observed though that people are talking about mindfulness as something separated from yoga or even meditation.
So before we start to talk about Yoga x mindfulness here is a definition:
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment, through a gentle and nurturing lens. … When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than ruminating over the past or imagining the future”.
Also, the second Yoga Sutra, which describes what yoga is, says “Yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind.”
So, mindfulness, living in the now or the present moment are the same things. People are confused or lack the knowledge that the practice of yoga asanas (postures) and meditation, which by the way is very much part of Yoga practice, is just a means to find one end. I understand and appreciate that there are yoga teachers out there putting mindfulness, yoga, and meditation in separate boxes, which could not be far from the truth.
When we are on our mats practicing Yoga postures or meditation, the whole purpose of the practice is to practice mindfulness. The yoga asanas were first practiced around 600 A.D with the Yoga Hatha Pradipika, the first book of Asanas (yoga postures). The yoga asanas were prescribed first to strengthen the physical body through the practice of meditation. If an individual has a weak body, the practice of meditation, sitting in a comfortable crossed legged position (the most common way to practice meditation), is almost impossible. The person would feel a sore back and hips, and their mind wouldn’t settle due to the weakness of their physical body. However through the practice of yoga asanas, the body becomes strong enough, and the asanas practice also prepare the individual to deepen their awareness of their physical body and breath (the first two layers, of the total five layers or Koshas of our being according to yoga).
From this little glimpse of knowledge of yoga, the practice of yoga postures as BKS Iyengar, the pioneer of yoga in the West, emphasizes continually is meditation in action. Therefore again, the yoga – poses, breathing exercises, and meditation – is a medium to practice mindfulness.
When we practice yoga, mindfulness is necessary to be in the present moment, feeling, examining, sensing and aware of everything that is, the sensations of the body and breath, the sense of touch, smell, sight and all the feelings involved in the specific practice you are engaged. If mindfulness is not present, then you are practicing something else, maybe a physical exercise, but not yoga.
Yoga is the practice of mindfully performing yoga asanas, which demands the breath as a bridge between the physical body and the mind. That is the practice of yoga in the outermost aspects of it!
Yes, yoga can be used for therapeutic applications to cure the diseased, physically or mentally affected students/patients, (clarifying the diseases of the physical body generally is a disease that started from an uneasy state of mind) and regardless it demands the full participation of one’s awareness in the present moment.
For some, the practice of sitting to meditate is asking too much as the mind is far too busy and distracted to sit for extended periods in meditation. In cases like this, the practice of yoga poses is beneficial. For others, the method of meditation is wanted but without a healthy, fit body with strong support for the spine to be straight, elevated and supportive of the organs, particularly the lungs, is not possible. Without breathing fluidly, there is no meditation.
Therefore lovely ones, yoga x mindfulness are not separated. Mindfulness is a state of being while yoga and meditation is a practice to attain this state of being.