So it’s the end of the yoga class and it’s time for relaxation.
Everyone around you seems to love it – they look so blissed out!
But when you lie back to try and relax yes, it feels fantastic … for about 30 seconds.
And then you wonder … hmmm, what shall I have to have to eat when I get home? Damn, I didn’t answer that urgent email before I left work today – there’s going to be trouble tomorrow! Hmm, what shall I wear tomorrow? Is there going to be a frost tonight? Oh, don’t forget to amend the supermarket order, we’re almost right out of pasta. Eek, did I turn my mobile off? It’ll be so embarrassing if someone rings now…
…and then the next thing you notice is the teacher’s voice telling you to wriggle your fingers and toes and it’s time to come out of the relaxation.
Oh blimey. Where on earth happened there? Where did that last 10 minutes go???? I didn’t switch off at all.
Sound familiar? I’ve certainly been there and done that MANY a time!
Even though we know we need to relax – and enjoy it when we do – often, when we try to be still, our mind can get even busier and even louder.
Why relaxation can be so challenging
Don’t worry – and please don’t feel defeated. This is a perfectly natural response!
When our body is still, when we withdraw our awareness from the many external stimuli which constantly surround us, then we are simply able hear the mind more clearly.
What you experience in a relaxation or meditation is a true reflection of how your mind is every day – but with the busyness of activity you simply may not notice it as much.
So many people tell me that they can’t do meditation or relaxation practices because their mind is too busy.
But, if that’s the case for you, that is precisely why such practices will help you.
Train the mind
Think of your mind as a muscle which needs to be strengthened and toned. If you try Plank Pose the first time, your arms might feel weak as if you simply can’t hold your body weight for more than a few seconds. But with practice and discipline over time your experience changes – the muscles get used to the strength required.
Your mind requires training. If its usual mode of being is to jump around all over the place then it will take time to train it to focus.
Think of training a puppy. You ask it to sit still. It does for a second and then it sees something outside and wants to wander off and explore.
This is what your mind does. You ask it to be still and focus on one thing and then it gets distracted by another thought and wanders off.
Now, we can often beat ourselves up and get angry and frustrated with our wandering minds.
But would you get angry with a puppy who is yet to be house-trained?
No, you’d be more patient. You’d know that with practice and time, the puppy will respond.
Apply this same patience and gentleness to yourself and your busy mind.
Accept what is
The first step to find peace with your mind is simply to see the nature of your mind – the chattering monkey mind, jumping constantly from one place to another.
Then – and this is the challenge – we need to accept our mind as it is. Be open to and accept the experience of our busy mind with a wry smile and a compassionate heart.
Once we have noticed and accepted how our thoughts are, then we can begin to discipline the mind. Without that acceptance we will struggle, judge and resist. A busy mind takes up a lot of our energy – struggling with our mind will leave us totally exhausted!
But be clear – the aim of yoga relaxation and meditation techniques ISN’T to stop the mind – it’s to become an observer.
To find a sense of peace with your mind. Not to stop the thoughts, but to notice them and then be able to stop getting caught up and whisked away in the constant stream of movements in the mind.
So, to begin to train our mind, and to reveal our inner observer, we need something to focus on.
Watch the breath – a simple concentration exercise
Sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor. Make sure it’s somewhere quiet where you can sit undisturbed for a few minutes. Sit with good posture – make sure you aren’t slouching – so you can breathe deeply and steadily.
Close your eyes if that helps or gently rest your gaze on something in front of you.
- Follow your breath, don’t try to change it.
- Then after a little while, bring your attention to the sound of your breath flowing in and out.
- Then notice the air as it brushes the inside of your nose.
- Pay attention to the entire in-breath right up until it ends and the out-breath starts.
- Tune in to the exact moment of transition. Focus on the fine details of sounds and sensation of your breath.
- After a little while begin to notice if the in-breath and out-breath are of similar lengths.
- If your attention wavers, simply come back to your breath.
Continue for 2-3 minutes. Then let the awareness of the breath fade and reflect on your experience.
Did your attention waver? What did you notice? What did you think about instead? Don’t worry if your mind was all over the place! As I’ve said, when we sit we notice our mind more.
So, this is a simple technique you can use any time of the day – even when you’re travelling or at work – soften your gaze and notice the breath. Take your awareness within. Get interested in what you experience – without judging it good or bad.
Learn to accept whatever you find.
Keep an open mind and open heart. Practice and simply see what happens…