By Adriana Rambay Fernández
Yoga is an invitation to become more present in your daily life. Tuning in to sensation in the body and focusing on the breath are techniques that can be applied at work, at home, and the spaces in between. Consciously taking a deep breath or closing your eyes and noticing how you feel is a way to drop in to the present moment and create space in between the thoughts that continually arise. In that space between the inhale and the exhale, in that space of awareness, exists the opportunity to become more awake to what is.
Being in the present moment “means to be like space itself, allowing for everything that arises–breath, thoughts, emotions, sensations, everything,” says Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. Allowing yourself to inhabit the present moment without judgement for whatever arises may offer a sense of freedom. Without judgement you may experience the freedom to let go of your inner critic–to observe all that arises with compassion and loving kindness–and to become more open and accepting of you.
But what happens when the weight of your daily routine and planning begins to influence how you approach your yoga practice? What happens when yoga gets mixed up with items on your “to do” list or gets grouped with goal-setting and achievements? When this happens, when yoga gets caught into patterns of planning and future-thinking it may become something you “do” on autopilot rather than something you open up to experience.
It is challenging to stay in the present moment and not get swept up in the wandering mind especially if you return to something that feels like routine or at the other end of the spectrum if you are just getting started. It’s easy to get caught up in thoughts of work, what’s for dinner, or a recent memory when you flow in and out of Warrior II. Or if you are just beginning to explore yoga you may end up battling with your inner critic who wants to remind you that you can’t do a certain pose or that you’re not flexible enough or thin enough to practice yoga.
Being open to the present moment requires letting go of any fixed notion of what’s going to happen next. It means being comfortable with uncertainty and not having all of the answers. It also means letting go of any type of agenda you may have when you approach the mat.
Here are some ways to stay in the present moment whether on or off the mat:
Focus on the breath
Become more present by incorporating techniques taught in class beginning with the breath. Notice how you’re breathing and whether or not it feels restricted, shallow, stuck or expansive. Observe what it feels like to deepen the breath. Listen for the breath as you inhale and exhale. Look for the space in between the breaths at the end of the exhale.
Notice sensation in the body
Pause for a moment in your day or before you practice to take stock of how the body feels. Conduct a scan of the body starting with the souls of the feet, moving on to the tops of the feet, to the toes, the ankles, and so on pausing at each body part as you move all the way up to the crown of the head. Notice any sensation. Make contact with each sensation. As you place your mind on each body part, take a deep breath in and out to release any tension. Be mindful of any pain or discomfort.
Practice loving kindness
Be gentle, loving, and kind to whatever arises as you inhabit the present moment. Observe without judgement. Create space to allow for anything to arise without labeling the thinking or emotion as good or bad.
Stay with the experience
The present moment is flowing, fluid, and expansive. Once you’ve arrived, stay with the experience. Remain open and receptive. If you find yourself wandering return to the breath or sensation in the body to remain present.
For more information about Adriana, please visit http://adrianarambay.com/yoga/.