What is Mindful Hatha Yoga?

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Based on a mix of the ancient wisdom of traditional Hatha Yoga and modern Mindfulness based Stress Reduction (MBSR) practices, with a healthy dose of the latest research in mind-body science and therapies, Mindful Hatha Yoga invites you to tune into your body and be kind to yourself. It is a path, a journey, not to get somewhere else, but to be where we are, as we are in this very moment, with this very breath, whether the experience is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. The approach is less about performance than about the exploration of experience moment by moment.

 The first foundation of Mindful Hatha Yoga is Ahimsa (do no harm) to yourself and your students, and at its heart we practice the 8 attitudinal foundations of mindfulness - non judging, patience, beginners mind, trust, non striving, acceptance, letting go and self compassion. This creative interplay between witnessing (mindfulness) and compassion is emphasised or present as a background theme of our practice and teaching. We would also say that the witness consciousness and the compassionate heart are fundemental features of all integrative forms of yoga. Together they make us whole.

Our yoga practice is the perfect time for cultivating the Yama Ahimsa of 'do no harm' by stepping out of Automatic Pilot and into each part of our practice with a beginners mind - each breath, each sensations, each thought and emotion offer us an entirely new experience to explore.

Yoga Sutras II:16 “Heyam Dukham Anagatam - "Suffering that has not yet come can, and should be avoided”  really supports our vision of teaching yoga. We often ask "as you practice yoga can you relinquish the goal of physical accomplishment for the intention of cultivating awareness of well-being, peace, joy and happiness?"

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It’s not about “doing your yoga practice” it’s about “being in your yoga practice”

So for example in asana we bring awareness to our –

  • Physical sensations to find your middle path of not too tight, not too loose. Is there something you can let go of? Or perhaps your body is asking you to honor or surrender to some limitations, and work with others? Remember the moment (or just before) you lose the balance of effort and ease, if your breath is ragged (the breath is the great teacher of the principle of yoga and should take centre stage in your awareness) or if it just doesn’t feel good then these are cues for you to come out of an asana.
  • Thoughts Has your mind wandered (it will – that’s what minds do!) Are you caught in your ‘story’ and practicing mindlessly? Are you judging your bodies on the basis of what you can or cannot do? Are these thoughts pushing you towards practicing certain asanas because you think you should be doing them even if you cannot “abide in ease”? Try to put the awareness of your breath as the centre of your practice, you may need to bring your awareness back time and time again – but that’s why it’s called a practice!
  • Emotions do certain asanas make you feel angry, frustrated or sad? Perhaps you brought these emotions onto the mat with you. What would happen if you changed your breathing? Try gentle Ujjayi to bring calmness and balance, a longer exhale to reduce anger or anxiety, the heart breath (inhale and exhale for the same duration, without force) for sadness

Mindful Hatha Yoga taps into the innate potential for healing that we all have. It mobilizes our ability to cultivate embodied wisdom and self-compassion, and by so doing it teaches us to live our life and face whatever arises with awareness, integrity, clarity and an open-hearted presence both on and off our mats. You may also like to read  the page "What is Mindfulness Meditation" 

This is why we call Mindful Hatha Yoga a therapeutic practice, even so, from time to time, we may need to remind ourselves to just be in our yoga practice, rather than think we are doing the yoga practice.

Learn to let go, that is the key to happiness.
Jack Kornfield.  A Path with Heart.

A Mindful Hatha Yoga class -

The focus of a Mindful Hatha Yoga class is to tune into your breath, body, sensation, thought and emotions, and practice in a way that brings bring balance and harmony. In our asana practice we will practice both slowly and quickly.  With longer holds we have the space to explore and with flow or vinyasa sequences we focus on staying present throughout the movement. Neither is better or more advanced and both offer us the opportunity to awaken.

A typical general Mindful Yoga class is based on a 5 stage structure -

Stage 1 - Welcome and check in -

    • Theme and intention of the class
    • Centering
    • Education if applicable
    • Guided body awareness practices or meditation

Stage 2 - Initial practices -

    • Pranayamas & Mudras

Stage 3 - Warm Ups -

    • Joint and energy freeing series
    • and/or selection of warm ups including Seated, Standing and Sun or Moon Salutations

Stage 4 - The 10 step asana sequence - Sutra II.46 “Shtira Sukkham Asanam – Abiding in ease is asana”

    • Step 1 - Standing poses - Building a foundation of awareness, strength and energy with a beginners mind
    • Step 2 - Balancing poses - Bringing awareness to the anchor of my breath, I develop internal and external balance
    • Step 3 - Stabilization and tranzition to the floor - Stepping out of automatic pilot I develop the ability to stay calm and centered under pressure
    • Step 4 - Hip openers - Opening to kindness, trust and patience
    • Step 5 - Prone back bends - As I open the front of my body and rest in the light of my heart, I allow myself to 'just be'
    • Step 6 - Seated poses - With acceptance I tune into my secret source of health and wellbeing
    • Step 7 - Forward bends - Opening the back of my body, I let go of any need for my experience to be other than it is in this moment
    • Step 8 - Supine poses - Riding the waves of my breath allows me to be kind and compassionate
    • Step 9 - Inversions - By practicing non-striving I am not trying to get anywhere, even when the world is upside down
    • Step 10 - Finishing poses - Taking time to rest in my true self without judging my practice

Stage 5 - Integration in savasana -

    • Progressive Muscle relaxation or Guided imagery
    • Silent relaxation
    • Final pranayamas, mudras and meditation
    • Completion and affirmations

 To read more, click the link's in the Hatha Yoga Teacher Training drop down menu box above