by Jeanna Lax
What is presence or present moment awareness?
As you may know, yoga practice is not merely a means to achieving a rock hard booty, though you will enjoy that part too!
Practicing yoga is truly a practice of present moment awareness. We start on the mat and we strive to bring the core of the practice into every aspect of our lives.
Presence makes life more enjoyable, more playful, and more fun. Presence enhances flavors, brightens colors, and calms us and our over-stimulated minds. Present moment awareness happens easily when we focus on our breath or when we are mindful in the activities we are doing.
The Breath: an essential tool for cultivating presence
During yoga classes you will hear your yoga teachers say the words Breathe, Inhale, Exhale, Empty out, and Fill up over and over. Yes, it is repetitive, and we know that you are going to breathe no matter what we say because otherwise you’d just pass out!
Did you know? You breathe in about 960 times in one hour, which is about 23,000 breaths in one day and without even thinking about it!
With this automatic function always happening, you can use your brain to think about a lot of other stuff, often things that are out of your control, events of the past, or things that could maybe happen in the future. These thoughts can cause you a lot of stress.
Yoga teachers are guiding you to focus on your breath, or practice Pranayama. We are facilitating conscious breathing which has so many benefits: Pranayama breathing has been shown to positively affect immune function, hypertension, asthma, autonomic nervous system imbalances, and psychological or stress-related disorders.
In addition to all these physical benefits of bringing your awareness to your breath, you are practicing present moment awareness. The breath is the bridge between the mind and the body - literally! In yoga classes, we are bridging the mind to the body by building that bridge brick by brick...or breath by breath.
So keep coming to your mat, and breathe as loud as you need to in order to silence that commentator in your head. Use your own breath to calm the mind, and focus on your body. Use the breath to bring your focus to yourself, to the present moment, and to this incredible experience of being alive!