Hmm… I probably could have picked a better title for this. Thinking is good, but it’s also bad. Thinking about things can help you sort those things out, come to a better understanding, or just to learn more. But when it comes time to relax and not think anymore, our brains seem to love to take this “down time” as an opportunity to run rampant. In today’s post, we explore how to deal with having trouble clearing our minds during out practice. You can probably also apply this to trying to fall asleep at night too or any other situation. Voilà!
Like any aspect of Yoga, clearing your mind is something that needs to be worked on. If you stop practicing, you may even find that you’ve reverted to having an overly cluttered mind when it isn’t beneficial to you. I absolutely struggle with this, I stop doing yoga, and my hamstrings tighten up, my injuries act up, and my mind starts racing! You have to go back through the process of getting back into Yoga. (Check out my video on getting back on the mat!) This process also means we’re back to loosening the hamstrings, working out the stiffness and kinks, and clearing our minds!
Some people just have lists of things to do, and being busy isn’t bad. However, if it starts bogging down your mind and taking up so much space that you can’t relax, maybe it’s time to find a solution. I’m not going to tell you that you need to cut back. I’ve known people who thrive on busy lives, where every minute is scheduled! It might be something to consider, but it isn’t necessarily your only option.
What I will suggest though, is to create a “To Do” list, or even a worry list. It may help to write down things that need to be done, or what is on your mind that you need to work on. This way, you can go into your practice knowing that you have it safely written down and don’t have to worry about forgetting in class. This is only a before class fix though. Unless you use Yoga for brainstorming, I don’t suggest getting into the habit of stopping your practice to write. (If it’s super important, what can you do though?)
It’s also important to remember that there is nothing wrong with random thoughts floating through your head when you’re trying to relax. You see them, they’re there, then let them go. Don’t fret over trying to get it out of your head, just come back to yourself. Smile it off, take a deep breath, and let go.
Letting go isn’t so easy though, this is a large reason why some may struggle with stationary, seated meditation. This is also why most types of meditation are done by focusing on something. If you aren’t practicing seated meditation, and are just struggling with thoughts in your Downward Facing Dog, a lot of these types can still help you.
While in a pose, you can concentrate on that pose, think about where your fingers are, what they are doing. Think about your toes, calves, legs, spine, ribs, head, and your body as a whole. By the time you’ve done all this, there’s a good chance you’re moving onto the next move. A lot of Yoga is about being in the moment, so it’s fine if you’re thinking, so long as it’s in the moment.
If you’re in a pose where your body scan has checked out, and you’re still waiting (probably savasana), concentrate on your breaths and making them longer and deeper. you can do counted breaths (i.e. 4 count inhale, 1 count pause, 4 count exhale. We’ll talk about counted breathing another time.) On top of giving you something to think about, breathing exercises help to calm your mind and nervous system!
Other “meditative” options could be repeating a mantra out loud or in your head, focusing on an object, or even music. While some people may tell you that music isn’t good for meditation, you should do what you find helps. I recommend staying away from music with lyrics, but I have been known to cheat.