Journey into Mindful Yoga

In 2011 I attended an 8 week mindfulness course run by a very inspiring teacher, Cathy-Mae Karelse.

It’s easy to be blasé about mindfulness. I thought I was already quite a mindful person, practicing and teaching yoga daily.

Soon into the course I realised most of the time I was on automatic pilot, rushing through life, partly here, partly in thoughts of yesterday and thinking of what’s coming next.

Committing to a regular formal mindfulness practice has helped me to slow down enough to be with my direct experience and allows life to be more vibrant, peaceful and exciting.

It’s not all roses though and I’ve found over time that’s ok as well. Being able to be with things or notice things about myself that aren’t so good has allowed me to recognise habitual patterns of thoughts and actions that aren’t allowing life to flow so well.

Continuing the journey, this year I took part in Cathy-Mae’s residential week of training to bring mindfulness into yoga teaching.

Before being a part of this training, I’d used the word ‘mindful’ at lot whilst teaching yoga – “be mindful of your breath“, “be mindful of your body” – I was using the word more as a teaching phrase rather than in it’s fullest sense.

"Practising Mindful Walking" on Teaching Mindfulness Yoga Residential Week

‘Mindful Walking’ on Mindful Yoga Residential Week

Teaching mindfulness is encouraging the students to stay present with their own direct experience. Learning to sometimes drop below the language of the mind to experience the body, breath, feelings and emotions or sometimes becoming more aware of the language of the mind.

And at the same time, as a teacher, staying completely present to my direct experience as it unfolds and without judgment from the conditioned mind of “I wonder if this person will like it if I used the word compassion? or the wandering mind” – teaching a posture but not totally in the now, thinking “where do I need to be later?

One of the things we often do as yoga teachers is that we suggest the way students feel, for example, “bring your mind to the outbreath and notice how relaxed you feel through the shoulders”.

In mindfulness yoga teaching there is a subtle difference, we are encouraging students to cultivate a kind and compassionate enquiry into what their experience actually is moment to moment. They might feel relaxed in the shoulders or they might feel something else or nothing at all.

It is paying attention to their present moment that allows them to become more aware, learn more about themselves and how things change, pass and transform.

Teaching mindfulness yoga feels like an exciting challenge. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this way of practicing and teaching. The teaching inspires me to practice more and the practice inspires me to pass on all I’m learning.

I’m looking forward to continuing my journey with Cathy-Mae and the mindfulness yoga teacher’s group and discovering how this journey continues to unfold moment to moment to moment.