Finding Balance: Mindful Awareness through Yoga

Yoga instructor Carly Orshan, MA, E-RYT200, RCYT explores the benefits of mindful movement and awareness through the practice of yoga. 

Take a second to tune in and notice how you are feeling in this very moment. Take a breath in. Take a breath out. Breathe at a normal pace and become aware of the rhythm you are creating. Notice what you are experiencing in this moment. What sounds do you hear? What physical sensations come up? What thoughts are surfacing for you? Notice these elements surrounding you and within you – without trying to do anything about it.

You are participating in a mindful activity.

Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment. Yoga is a useful tool to help individuals achieve mindfulness and become aware of the present moment through physical, mental, and emotional engagement. Anyone can use mindfulness to help them listen to their inner voice and find better balance within themselves. Mindfulness is a practice that helps individuals learn how to better engage with themselves, interact with others, and learn how to tackle life’s hiccups with grace and awareness. However, mindful yoga can be particularly useful for individuals struggling with eating disorders that often experience negative body image and typically have difficulties nurturing and embracing themselves in nonjudgmental ways.

Through the past three years, I have witnessed individuals engage with mindfulness each time I walk into Oliver-Pyatt Centers to lead a yoga class. There is often a shift that occurs for the women when they step on their mats. This transition may not be obvious to many or even to the participant herself, but it is there. Although it doesn’t show each class for every person, I have noticed that an emotional metamorphosis is revealed when the participant is able to truly connect with her inner self and release other distractions. By tuning in and honoring the present moment this subtle transformation emerges with a beautiful smile upon her face. Even though she may not see it or feel as she is moving and breathing through the class, I do. It is this realization that makes the moment equally compelling for the instructor.

In each class, we begin by closing our eyes, taking a deep breath and setting an intention. In Sanskrit, intentions are called sankalpas, which means our heart’s deepest longings. We use intentions as a way to leverage the power of the practice and the meditative feeling that comes along with it to create movement in a positive direction. Setting intentions helps participants shift their mentality from engaging in an “exercise” event to one that is a mindful practice of movement by turning inward, to their heart’s center. By setting intentions we establish an intimacy with our own inner essence – the quiet voice of our inner self that speaks in terms of openness, love, silence, knowingness, and kindness. Some intentions often prompted during class that I love are:

“To treat myself with love and respect.”

“To have compassion and self-acceptance.”

“To be more open-hearted, despite being hurt in the past.”

“To focus on being present by listening to my breath.”

“To cultivate happiness, experience peace, and honor my true self.”

To connect to our heart’s highest intention, we simply need to turn inward. This process facilitates a mindful experience and reaffirms the physical, mental and emotional gift that yoga can bring to each individual. Mindful based yoga is a powerful practice to bring about balance, smiles and encourage healing.


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