Mastering moment to moment mindfulness

The great thing about doing yoga at home is that it’s always available. If you can get away from dogs and kids and clear a strip on the floor, you can do yoga, even in your underwear.

But the downside to doing solo yoga, of course, is the absence of a teacher to lead you through the poses and – critically – to remind you to breathe.

I was doing yoga at home the other day when I realized that when I’m practicing alone, I have a tendency to cut myself short every time I transition from one pose to another. And I realized that tendency carries over into my other activities, too.

I’m not big into breath-counting because it makes the whole experience feel too regimented. Instead, I like to feel my way through the flow, holding each pose as long as feels good, and aiming loosely to balance it out on the other side of my body. Mostly, it works. I’ll hold on to my Warrior Two, arms extended, breathing mindfully, until I feel ready to windmill my arms down to the floor in front for a good ole downward dog. And when that “ready” feeling comes, I do it. Sounds ok.

The thing I noticed the other day, though, is that I tend to move the instant that ready feeling comes. Like, the split second the impulse pops into my head, my limbs go into action. Sometimes I do it even in the middle of a breath (what a yogi no-no). It’s not the biggest deal in the world – I just recover my breathing pattern without really even thinking about it, but that micro-adjustment takes away from the beautiful benefits of the flow of yoga. My impulsiveness injects a sense of rushing into my next pose. I leave one moment without completion, and I arrive into the next unprepared.

I thought about how often we do that in our lives. Rushing from one moment into the next, without letting a full and natural transition occur within the pause in-between. We compose our replies in our heads while the other person is still talking and then rush to speak, sometimes missing the counterpoint at the end of their sentence. We rush into train doors without noticing the slow-moving elder trying to make their way to the exit. We hold on to attitudes of the past without noticing that circumstances and people have moved on.

How different might our experience be — and others’ experience of us — if we can take a tiny moment to notice what is actually happening around us now, instead of responding to what happened three moments ago, or three decades ago.

It doesn’t have to be a big awkward pregnant pause. Just complete the breath cycle that’s in the lungs and  recalibrate, absorb what has just happened, and receive what’s just been said, before moving into the next pose.

Today, I aim to fully arrive in each moment having fully released the last.


Maggie Langrick

One Response to “Mastering moment to moment mindfulness”

  1. elainecorden

    What wonderful advice. Here’s a Mary Oliver poem I think that speaks to the same phenomenon.

    Wild Geese
    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body
    love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
    are moving across the landscapes,
    over the prairies and the deep trees,
    the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
    over and over announcing your place
    in the family of things.

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