The first sutra of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali states:
“Now begins instruction on the practice of Yoga.” (translation from The Secret of the Yoga Sutras by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, PhD)
Yoga is Now. Not sometime in the future where we have grand plans of the things we’d like to do. Not even everyone’s favorite “tomorrow” land where many things get casually placed. It’s Now. It goes along the same lines as the saying, “There’s no time like the present”.
Patanjali says, Now is the time to practice Yoga. So what does this mean? Should we be on our mats 24/7? In fact, he was referring to meditation. The next Sutra states:
“Complete mastery over the roaming tendencies of the mind is Yoga.”
In order to completely master the roaming tendencies of the mind, we need to be able to sit still and observe the mind. Unchecked, our minds run rampant. We drift from thought to thought, subject to subject. You may have even experienced times when you started thinking about what you would have for lunch, moved on to your To Do list, then a work problem, and ended up thinking about your best friend from elementary school. And this goes on all day long. So how can we even begin to have mastery over the roaming tendencies of our mind?
We meditate. We begin sitting still with ourselves. We focus and concentrate our minds. That might sound very scary to some people. It is still challenging for me to sit still and try to focus my mind on just one thing. This is why it requires a lot of practice and dedication.
When I first teach Meditation to students, I like to begin with meditating on the breath. You start by either sitting or lying down comfortably. If you are sitting, be sure to prop yourself with blankets or even sit in a chair. Place your hands on your thighs, palms up or down. Close your eyes and become aware of your normal breathing pattern. (This might be the first time you have noticed your breath all day!) As you become more aware of your breath, start to say to yourself, “Inhale… Exhale…”. Let the words flow with your natural breath. “Inhale…Exhale…”. When you find your attention drifting, it’s ok. Be patient and kind to yourself and start again. “Inhale…Exhale…”. Again, when your mind wanders, just notice the wandering. Be ok with it and open to what comes up. And then begin again, “Inhale…Exhale…”.
It is very challenging work, but incredibly rewarding. There are many new studies showing that meditation reduces stress and anxiety. Personally, it helps me to be more present in life. I am more aware of my thought patterns and I can let them go, knowing that they are just thoughts. When life seems crazy and fast and full of distractions, I just remember that Yoga is Now.
Hayleigh Zachary is a yoga teacher and teacher trainer in Los Angeles. She teaches classes with a strong foundation in alignment and breath. She loves teaching how you can take your yoga practice off the mat and in to all aspects of your life! You can find out more about Hayleigh at her website: www.hayleighzachary.com