Yoga can be a profound mindfulness practice. The practice of yoga focuses our attention on the movement of the body and our breathing as a gateway to our mind and emotions. It involves working through the body and the movements of the asanas to develop flexibility, frictionless structural alignment, balance and strength.
Yoga includes learning to guide the breath towards greater awareness and benevolent control so as to be more and more able to use the breath to affect a state of calm equanimity from moment to moment.
Yoga practice also includes the development of mindful attention; honing the ability to be aware of and to slow mental and emotional responses that can arise and be stimulated through the physical practice, by creating a gap between the direct experience and the response.
Every time we come to our yoga practice, we are influencing all levels of our being. While we melt the blockages and restrictions in our physical body, associated mental issues are also being affected and released. While we build strength and endurance physically, this translates into increased ability to maintain a state of mindfulness throughout our daily activities.
A day of giving massages requires us to tune in and tune up in between sessions to maintain our focus, physical alignment and energetic clarity. Ten minutes of simple yoga postures can prove effective in many ways including building mindfulness.
Begin by lying down on your back, take up space, feet apart, arms away from the body. This posture, while seemingly easy, can be one of the most challenging yogic asanas. It is a yoga and mindfulness practice, in that the attention is shifted from an exterior focus (the client’s needs, the time, the temperature in the room) to an internal one. The floor will give sensory feedback. With your mind’s eye, scan your body for places that are holding tension and allow them to release, thereby providing
Begin by lying down on your back, take up space, feet apart, arms away from the body. This posture, while seemingly easy, can be one of the most challenging yogic asanas. It is a yoga and mindfulness practice, in that the attention is shifted from an exterior focus (the client’s needs, the time, the temperature in the room) to an internal one. The floor will give sensory feedback. With your mind’s eye, scan your body for places that are holding tension and allow them to release, thereby providing opportunity to relax your body into a neutral physical alignment. Take ten, deep, 3-part (abdomen, middle chest, upper chest) breath cycles of equal inhalation and exhalation. This one to two-minute practice can be restorative both physically and mentally. A bolster may be used under the knees, and a small folded towel may be placed under the head.
Knee Down Twist
Bring the knees to the chest and gently squeeze them towards you, stretching, opening and releasing the low back. Opening the arms to a T-position, allow the knees to fall towards the floor to one side. Gently rotate the head in the opposite direction. Relax, and take several breaths before returning to center and taking it to the other side. This movement helps to align the entire spine. Twists help to eliminate holding of tension.
Remain on your back with knees bent so that your fingertips just barely brush your heels. Begin to lift the pelvis upwards, pressing down into the feet, until you feel a good stretch along the front of the body (thighs, belly, chest). Hold the posture for several full breaths. Bridge opens the entire front of the body including the heart and also strengths the back muscles. To increase the challenge a block can be held between the knees. For a more restorative posture, a block can be placed under the sacrum for a supported adaptation.
Come to a standing position. Step back with the right foot. The front leg is bent at the knee and the back leg remains straight, pressing into the outside edge of the foot. The arms are extended upwards along the sides of the head. Hips and shoulders face straight ahead. Sink down into the pose for several full breath cycles. Release any unnecessary tension. This posture builds heat, energy, strength, and stability.
Breath of Joy
Begin standing with arms resting at your sides. In a sequence of three motions, sweep the arms out in front of you, then open them wide and sweep them upwards over your head. With each movement inhale more fully. Once your arms reach the top of your inhalation, exhale forcefully, folding your whole body forward, sweeping the arms down and back, and letting the breath out fully with a HA-sound. This invigorating movement opens and energizes the heart and lungs.
Ten minutes of yoga and mindfulness practice in the midst of your day can provide many benefits to support your massage practice and your life:
- We bring energized, healthful alignment to our physical selves.
- We develop our mental clarity, focus and equanimity.
- We cultivate an attitude of loving kindness and compassion for ourselves which we can generously extend to our clients and the world around us.
About the Author
Linda Derick has been a massage therapist and educator for 30-plus years. She is director of the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy. Her leadership weaves together academic studies in movement from Wesleyan University, contemplative education from Naropa University, and her evolving avocation as a certified yoga instructor, specializing in stand-up paddleboard yoga. She has written regularly for MASSAGE Magazine, including “The Interplay of Ethics & Self-Care: Compassion for Self, Compassion for Others” (September 2016) and “Mindful Massage: Meditation Improves Quality of Touch” (February).