Mindfulness and Yoga: One breath at a time

Feeling overwhelmed? Too much work? Can’t concentrate? You’re not alone.

Woman doing a meditation session

Practicing mindfulness and yoga regularly has many benefits, including stress-relief and a feeling of well-being. Therefore, we have outlined effective meditation and mindfulness exercises to calm your mind and ground your body.

Partners in a moment of meditation at home

HOW TO UNWIND WITH MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION

With the current disruptions to our daily routines, we have become restricted by the limitations of our surroundings. To some of us, this lockdown has proven to be a chance to get to know ourselves better and to grow within. Today, we take the opportunity to introduce you to two disciplines to help you cope with stress; mindfulness and meditation.

Mindfulness

Since the onset of the lockdown, I often found myself unable to focus on anything. My mind would wander off to the past and to the future, creating anxiety within me. Then I was introduced to mindfulness.

I learned the importance of being present in the present moment, in the “now”. It might be difficult at first but with a little practice, it becomes easier. First, you have to ground yourself. To do this, find a quiet space and sit comfortably. Then, close your eyes and imagine growing roots into the floor. Find your way through your body and focus on your breathing. This is usually when your mind starts flooding with thoughts and ideas; visualize these thoughts as a leaf floating on a stream. As you observe the leaf float away, so do your thoughts. Bring your focus back to your breathing and inhale and exhale. The benefit of this process is that you train your mind to focus on what is happening in the now and not on the uncertainty of tomorrow. This will leave you feeling calm and energized. You will be more than ready to take on the day.

We recommend you do these mindfulness exercises for 5 minutes, twice a day.

Meditation

Every morning, when the world is still asleep and the house is quiet, I comfortably sit on my yoga mat. I like to gently wake up my mind and body with a Sun Salutation. It is a sequence of 12 postures woven together with the breath. These postures have been selected through years of yogic wisdom and science. To begin, stand at the top of your mat. Close your eyes for a moment and join your palms at your chest. Let go of any expectations.

1. Inhale, raise your arms and very gently bend backwards.

2. Exhale and fold forward, keeping your back straight. Touch your toes or the floor if you can.

3. Inhale halfway back up, elongating the spine. Bring your shoulders down, away from your ears. Chin should be slightly tucked in.

4. Exhale move your right foot back to a lunge position. You can place your knee on the floor if you find a lunge too challenging.

5. Inhale, raise your arms. Relax your jaw and your forehead.

6. Exhale, move to a plank position. You can hold this position for a few breath cycles in order to work your core muscles a little longer.

7. Exhale, lower your body down to the floor.

8. Inhale, move your chest up into a Cobra position. Pelvis and legs are firmly rooted to protect your lower back. Bring your shoulders down as if they’re sliding down your back.

9. Exhale and while contracting your core muscles, transition to a Downward Facing Dog position.

10. Inhale, place your right foot between your hands and rise to a lunge position with your arms stretched up to the sky.

11. Exhale, place your hands to the floor and bring your left foot beside the right foot at the top of the mat.

12. Inhale and rise. Join your palms at your chest. Breathe for a few breath cycles. Observe the change within yourself. Repeat the sequence, this time leading with the left leg to complete one full Sun Salutation.

Paired with movement, this sequence of inhales and exhales is very comforting to follow and brings peace within. Body and mind align and prepare you for whatever the day brings.

Namaste!

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Alexandra Tsygankova  - Sport advisor, Decathlon Burlington

Alexandra Tsygankova

Sport Advisor, Decathlon Burlington

My name is Alexandra. I discovered yoga about 15 years ago when curiosity brought me to an in-class practice. Since that time I've grown to love the philosophy of yoga and developed a home practice I can't do without.