I started teaching a free yoga class on Wednesdays at our local church about two months ago and have been enjoying teaching so much! It was one of those things where you wonder if because you love to do, will you also love to teach…? Well, victory my friends, because I do, in fact, love it!
I love the creativity behind coming up with themes for my class and then incorporating a meditation for the mental side of yoga. Making the mind/body/spirit connection is what makes yoga so unique. You get that mental and physical workout all at once! It’s one of my favorite parts, and getting to create that for people is really special.
Another great part about teaching is the learning process. What makes a teacher great, no matter what you are teaching, is their desire to continually educate themselves in their craft. There is always more to learn and ways to grow and to then share that with your students can be life changing. I love to learn and teaching has brought about new forms of education for me!
This week I was preparing a vinyasa flow class for flexibility and that got me thinking about being mentally flexible as well and what ways can we work on both?
Life Lesson: Practice Mental Flexibility Too!
Flexibility in our bodies has many health benefits. Joint mobility, malleable muscles, improved range of motion, improved athletic performance, prevention of injury and back pain, and overall improvement of balance. That’s quite the list of positives! Maybe that’s why so many professional athletes are starting up a yoga practice...
So, if it’s so important for our bodies, it must be equally important for our minds, right? The answer is YES! Life rarely ever goes as planned. There will be many bumps along the road, some big and some little, it’s inevitable. We have to learn to adapt and be flexible. Letting go of control and following where life leads can bring us unexpected joy and unplanned happiness.
Mental flexibility, or the ability to adapt to changes in your situation, can be learned. Most of us didn’t become perfectionists and control freaks overnight, but, through our environment and circumstances, learned this behavior. So it stands to reason that with a little self awareness and some practice, you can teach yourself the opposite behavior as well. Start thinking about mental flexibility as something you do, not who you are.
Just like taking up a regular yoga practice can improve our flexibility, so too can we practice our mental flexibility. Like most things we want to change, it takes a good amount of practice. If you want to respond to certain situations with a mellow attitude, you have to practice stretching beyond your limits!
Try thinking of some situations where you can relinquish control, and let go! Maybe you leave the dishes in the sink one night before bed instead of cleaning up. Maybe you take the kids out for ice cream and a movie on a school night instead of going to bed early. Each time you stretch yourself and try a new way of interacting with your environment, your brain makes new pathways of adaptability and it becomes easier to release control when life throws you a curveball. This way of thinking can be extremely helpful for those with anxiety.
If you need a little extra “umph”, I came up with this meditation:
Meditation for Mental Flexibility and Releasing Control
Begin seated in Sukhasana, or easy pose, with your palms face down on your thighs. Sit up tall on your sits bones to allow for full lung capacity.
Take 3 deep inhales through your nose and exhales through your mouth. Filling up your lungs like a balloon on the inhale and relaxing your jaw muscles on the exhale.
Continue breathing in and out through your nose as you take your focus to your body. Starting at the top of your head, release any tension and rigidity, and continue, making your way to your feet. Pay special attention to areas of tension: third eye, jaw, shoulders and hips.
Repeat this mantra: On the inhale say in your mind “I AM”, on the exhale say “ADAPTABLE”. Repeating this 3 - 5 times.
Taking your focus back to your breath, visualize you are holding very tightly to something. You are really gripping hard to this thing. Then slowly visualize yourself releasing your grip, slowly letting go and watch this thing fall to the floor in front of you. Notice how much lighter you feel, how free you feel.
Take 3 more deep inhales through your nose and exhales through your mouth.
Bring your hands to your heart and gently open your eyes.
Sometimes we are in control of our surroundings and that’s great! But sometimes we are not. Trying to hold on to control in any given situation can hold us back from new experiences, learning and growth. Let’s practice releasing control and embracing the unknown!