Finding Mindfulness On and Off the Mat
If you Google the word “hypochondriac,” my picture appears.
I’ve spent almost 19 years cultivating this feat while raising four children. Sore throat: gonna be strep or influenza. Little stomach ache: full-blown stomach bug must be around the corner. A slight headache: get ready for a 103 degree fever. This is what my brain has done every single time one of my children has a bodily ailment. Not fun. Not healthy. Very stressful. But it’s what I do.
I’ve been practicing vinyasa yoga at Inner Power Yoga for a little over one year. Why did I try yoga? To bring some peace to my overactive, worrying brain. Over time I found that I could melt into my mat and feel at peace. What an accomplishment!
However at home I always reverted back to what my brain had done so well for almost 20 years: worry about what might happen next. It’s as if I have two brains: one that is good at focusing on the breath and being mindful at the yoga studio; and one that goes haywire when one of my children doesn’t feel 100 percent well at home. Just call me Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s nice to meet you.
Last week, my youngest complained of a mild sore throat and headache at bedtime. As usual, my brain went into hypochondriatic overdrive: “This is going to be morph into a major illness; I think her head feels hot; I think my head feels hot; this is going to be a horrible night.” But then I stopped. Truly stopped in my tracks. I closed my eyes and I focused on my breath. I felt the cool inhales and warm exhales. I heard my yoga teachers in my head saying, “Just breathe,” “If you aren’t here, you’re nowhere,” “I am here, this is now.” And I calmed down. While I didn’t know how the evening was going to progress, I knew at that moment, things weren’t too bad. And that moment was what I focused on. My body and my brain felt at peace. It was beautiful.
I share this story because I want others to know that the practice of mindful breath and movement — the beautiful practice of vinyasa yoga — can have an incredible impact on your mental health off the mat.
Consider how you might channel your mindful breath and sense of peace during stressful (even irrational) moments in your life. The effects can be life changing.
I’m living proof.
Ursula and the IPY Teachers