Mindful practice leads to a mindful life

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This week the national news was my source of inspiration. The story of the teenage girl who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for texting encouragement to her boyfriend to commit suicide inspired me to talk to my own teenager about the power of our actions and our words; both spoken and written.

We cannot expect ourselves or others to always take the right course, make the right choice or say the right thing. However, we can aspire to be mindful in our speech and our actions. This is a practice; one that we can begin to cultivate on our mats with mindful movement of the body. From there the practice continues into our thoughts. To be mindful on our mats, in our bodies and in our thoughts so we can be more mindful in our actions and words off the mat is what we practiced this week.

As we began our warm up we moved a bit more slowly than usual, taking that extra moment to connect with ourselves a little more deeply.  As we continued through our asana flow we held our poses a little longer, which created an extra challenge. It is hard  to slow down and focus, it is easier to go faster so the body and mind can quickly move on to the next thought or action without contemplation.

As is the case on our mats, off the mat the same challenge exists. To be mindful takes discipline and focus; it takes the practice of slowing down and stepping back for a moment to understand the true power of our words and actions.

Although I attempted to share with my daughter the power we each possess through our words and actions I am not sure her 13 year old mind could fully process the practice of mindfulness.  My hope is over time, with practice,  that mindfulness will be a part of her journey through her teenage years and her life.

As the brain fully matures in our early 20’s we begin to understand through experience and wisdom the influence words can have. We start to know what mindful words look like.  We have all been touched by a powerful piece of writing or sentimental words spoken. We also know how hurtful impulsive speech and actions can be and we have all had moments of regret after speaking or writing something hastily in anger. When we live in mindfulness we have more joy and less regrets.

Back on our mats towards the end of class, I asked the students to explore 3 versions of a pose that requires intense mindfulness in the body and in the mind; Grasshopper (full pose pictured above). We explored “baby hopper” and then what I named “teenage hopper” before trying Grasshopper.  As we moved through the stages of growth in a grasshopper it somewhat represented our journey into mindfulness from the beginning to end of class and served as a reminder that the journey can continue off the mat. As we finished this exploration and moved mindfully into Savasana, I took the opportunity to remind my students that our Yoga practice is truly not about the poses, but instead who are becoming as we do them and that mindfulness on our mats leads to a mindful life. Namaste.

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