Have you ever been to a yoga class and left feeling dissatisfied? The flow was amazing and the instruction was concise but you weren’t able to release and flow. We’ve all been there.

Yoga is merely a set of stretches and strength-building postures, if your mind is elsewhere.

I’m not knocking the stretches and strength-building, as that is actually what first attracted me to yoga; they remain a crucial piece of my practice. But I think that many would agree that it’s not the stretches and strength-building that keep us coming back for more.

It was over 10 years after my first encounter with yoga, during my 200-hour yoga teacher training with Your Yoga Flow, that in one profound sentence my teacher defined that essential element, for me. The very first note I wrote down in my yoga teacher training was this...

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"The magic that is found in asana [yoga poses] is based on the quality of your awareness.”

Angela — my teacher — explained this further as I eagerly wrote down this seemingly simple sentence in my fresh new notebook that was bought just for this endeavour.

And just like that, after many years of practicing yoga, the penny dropped. Of course I had felt that awareness of my body in each posture was important during yoga, but it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that awareness in each posture is actually everything that makes yoga so beautiful.

The postures can be beneficial for lengthening and building strength. But what makes yoga yoga, is actually the mindfulness piece of it. It’s the release and the connection of body and mind that, linked through breath, that gravitates us towards our yoga mat time and again. We all crave this, in our world that doesn’t always welcome connection of body and mind.

So I offer you a challenge that I’ve been exploring myself, since the moment I wrote down that note. Gently release thoughts which are distracting you, from your body, in each individual posture, so that you are completely aware of what position your body is in.

Here you’ll discover your own adjustments; ones that allow you to find comfort and stillness in even the most challenging poses. Personally, I think that this teaches you to find comfort and stillness in your every day life, in even the most challenging situations.

Are you mindful on your mat?

Contributed by guest author Ashley Murray, Yoga Teacher Training Alum

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