By: Erica Quam, Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor. Erica Quam has taught yoga to athletes and active individuals for more than 11 years. Erica first began teaching to her athletes during her 15-year career as a college swim coach. She believes yoga can help prevent injuries and reduce stress, while building strength, flexibility and confidence.
What’s a mindfulness exercise?
An exercise that’s mindful helps you stay in the present moment instead of going on autopilot or letting your thoughts or emotions take you for a roller coaster ride.
Why should someone try a mindfulness exercise?
We all have certain things that trigger us. One person’s trigger isn’t necessarily the same for someone else.
When we get triggered, our thoughts and emotions take over. We go into reactive mode instead of responding in a calm, clear way.
One of my mentors used an equation to explain this: E + R = O.
The event plus your reaction to an event equals the outcome. The event doesn’t equal the outcome. The way you respond to events in our lives is your point of power.
This is much easier said than done. It takes practice. That’s why these are called mindfulness exercises.
Five mindfulness exercises to try
Try these five mindfulness exercises to reduce stress, sleep better and stay more calm and focused everyday.
There are many different types of meditation to choose from depending on where you’d like to place your focus.
Some days, trying to focus on your breath may not be effective. You can also try bringing your awareness to where you feel the breath, a sensation in your body, or a sound or sounds around you.
Whatever style you choose can help you cultivate mindfulness. Be open to trying different things. If you have a hard time meditating on your own, there are lots of apps and resources out there to help guide you.
Yoga means union. When you practice yoga you are bringing the body, mind and spirit together into the present moment. You can stretch and not be doing yoga if your mind is all over the place or you’re just going through the motions.
Try this 3-part focus for your practice where you bring your awareness to alignment, action and your breath in each pose.
Check in with your body’s physical alignment to line up your bones, muscles, and joints in a healthy way. Next, create stability in each pose to avoid overstretching. Finally, bring your awareness back to your breath to keep it flowing evenly in and out throughout your practice.
You can practice mindfulness through a simple activity like going for a walk.
Try varying your pace to notice the different sensations you feel when you speed up or slow down. Observe your heart rate or the rate at which you breathe. You can even sync up your breath to your cadence.
Bring your attention to different parts of your body. Note the sensations you feel in each body part as you walk. Notice your feet, legs, hips and shoulders. See if each part feels tight, loose or strong.
Utilize all five senses when you eat.
You may find it helpful to select a specific food like dark chocolate or a piece of fruit.
Slow down and notice each sense one at a time: smell, taste, touch, sight and even sound.
5. Body Scan
You can lie on your back on the floor or in your bed. Closing your eyes can help to quiet your mind and allow you to focus.
Move your awareness through your body, focusing on one spot at a time. If you notice any tight areas, see if you can release any of the tension on your next exhalation.
You can even visualize drawing a circle around the area that’s tight. See it grow larger on the in-breath and smaller on the out-breath.