That our thoughts correspond to how our body feels, and how our body feels can impact our thoughts is a foundational aspect of mindfulness and an integral way of caring for our mental well-being. A lot of us recognize the ways in which our bodies commonly hold and process stress, whether digestive upset, tension headaches, insomnia and/or dips into depression and anxiety. However, this past year changed the game with challenges we never even conceived to be possible, not to mention the collective stress of a world under tremendous pressure. Personally, it seemed to me a strange and ironic experience of stress mounting while my busyness ground to a halt. Sitting and waiting over doing, doing, doing was a surreal experience and one that called for a much deeper dive into self-care and really listening to what I needed – physically, emotionally, mentally. It also meant a true honouring of the mind/body connection.
When I first began Yoga, I remember being struck by how often we brought our hands together in what most would consider and is often called prayer pose. It was years later when I started to deepen my studies in Yoga that I discovered why this is an important part of the practice. Every hand gesture in a Yoga practice is considered a Mudra. Mudras represent various energetic aspects of our practice, but also the many nerve ending points on our palms and fingertips connect us to different areas of our brain either promoting relaxation or boosting energy. They can also provide a focal point for our meditation practice. When we press our palms together, this gesture is referred to as Anjali Mudra and represents our mind/body connection. There are no gaps between our palms and fingers, there is no gap between mind and body.
In our Yoga asana (poses) practice, we pause continuously by bringing our palms together in a moment of connection and reflection. We check in to see how we are feeling and to honour any shifts that may have happened in our practice. We have this same opportunity throughout our day. To pause in reflection and ask ourselves: what do we need in this moment? Maybe it is simply to be present with our breath. Maybe our thoughts are starting to race around, and we need to go outside for a moment or do a breathing practice. Maybe we have pent up energy and our body needs to move, or maybe we are feeling sluggish and it’s time for a healthy snack or a glass of water. Every time we pause and come into the present moment we are building our capacity for mindfulness. We are honouring our self, listening to our self and in that deepening our connection and understanding of our self. We are essentially creating a more loving relationship with our self. This is where we hold the key to our great power within, the power over our mental well-being. The power to shift how we want to feel, and this power is inside of us all the time.
Join me for my upcoming course: Yoga for Mental Well-Being. This is a 4-hr live virtual course on Saturday, January 30, 2021 10am – 2pm EST. Register before January 10th and save 20%. There is also an online course, Yoga for Mental Well-Being: Creating a Daily Practice launching January 10th. Together, let’s take ownership of our mental health.
Author: Lisa Greenbaum