Be a Mindful Automaton

I’ve never been good at sports. In fact, I’ve always been notably bad at sports. So much so that I actually got 0 out of 20 points on a volleyball “skills test” in junior high. I joke about it now, but for an overachiever such as myself, it was a real hit to the self-esteem that no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t be good at something. In my young mind, sports came to equal physical activity; so I thought being physically active was just a competition that I could never win.

This actually happened to me.

Luckily as an adult I’ve discovered that being physically active is not about who can get the ball over the net, or who can run the fastest. It doesn’t need to be a competition at all; instead, it can be about connecting with your body and caring for yourself. I find this especially true of one of my favourite physical activities: yoga.

My 8-year-old understanding of yoga.

Yoga is great for a plethora of reasons, but in my experience, the most impactful thing about yoga is its attention to mindfulness. This is a concept that I’ve encountered not only in yoga classes, but also in many of the alternative therapies that I’ve sought over the years. So what is it about this concept of mindfulness that I find so important?

1) It brings me back to myself, and makes me conscious of the fact that I am alive. Because sometimes it’s easy to forget to not go through life as a mindless automaton.

2) It makes me aware of how my body is positioned, and how this both reflects and influences the way I feel. For someone who spends so much time in front of a computer, it’s pretty important to keep my posture as upright and conscious as possible.

3) It makes me more intentional in my choices. And this may be perhaps the most important in terms of my relationship with the world around me. When I am mindful in a situation, I think of my own needs, but also how those needs might affect others.

Check out all that mindfulness.

Here are just a few ways you can get involved in yoga in Halifax:

Halifax Yoga Directory (a few listings of classes/instructors)

Yoga in the Workplace (my yoga of choice)

Moksha Yoga (I’ve heard great things about hot yoga)

9 thoughts on “Be a Mindful Automaton

  1. Jan, your 8 year old self must have been SUPER flexible.

    I can appreciate what you said about being mindful. I always leave yoga feeling more centered and deliberate in my actions. It’s interesting how an activity can have such an impact on your decision making.

  2. You should see the other 20 pictures I drew in the same book. I’m trying to imagine what I might have seen or heard about yoga to make me believe that it enabled spiral arm twists and the relocation of the eyes, nose and mouth to places other than the face. I guess it’s a lot more mainstream than it used to be.

    What I like about yoga is that it encourages your mind and body to be on the same page; one is not coaxing the other into something, or ignoring the other completely. It’s like taking your intent and your action and smooshing them together in a delicious peanut-butter and jam sandwich kind of scenario. They get all mixed up in your mouth, until the jam and P.B. swirl into a magical medley of flavour in your mouth.

    Umm, I still need to eat breakfast.

  3. As a child, my idea of yoga was about the same. My mum had a full book of poses, which were probably quite reasonable, but I only did headstands and the lion pose – http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/1705.

    I doubt anything would have focused my nine year old mind, let alone that.

    I did Ashtanga in university. It was a challenge. But that benefits of the mind body connection are hard to deny. I might go for some low-key yoga, if you anyone has recommendations.

  4. Frances, I think you’d be an expert at yoga poses that require silly facial expressions. What about one like this?

    (:C-}–{

    The yoga I do is based on the “Alexander Technique” which you can learn more about here: http://www.alexandertechniqueatlantic.ca. I think different types of yoga have different focuses (foci?) but the instructor also makes a huge difference. I love my instructor, and I would consider the yoga we do a good and challenging workout, but it’s not so hard that I feel like a weakling. At least, not all the time. I guess it depends what you’re in it for, right? Some days I push myself harder than others, but most of the time I just try to focus on the breathing and mindfulness. We even do chanting! What a crazy and awesome experience.

  5. Not wanting to be the sweaty awkward guy in gym lead to a lot of not participating, and, honestly, not wanting to be the one creepy (and still sweaty) guy at the yoga class has kept me from going. Is that stereotype just in the movies or on bad TV? I’m not worried about being the only guy, per se, I just don’t want people to assume I’m going for the spandex as opposed to the mind/body experience. In Halifax I probably wouldn’t encounter this issue, but the classes I’ve looked into here in the Valley are either tailored specifically toward women, or are listed as co ed but actually have no male members or instructors. Maybe the classroom isn’t for me, have you guys run across any good websites with -videos-? I have a hard time telling how to get into a pose from a diagram or pictures.

    Janice, someday you will have to show me how you invert your elbows, that’s a neat trick =D

  6. I have noticed that most of the yoga instructors/participants I’ve spoken with have been women. There is however one guy in my yoga class of about seven. Maybe there is something to the whole “getting in touch with your emotions” part of yoga that’s still sadly stigmatized for men. I’ve certainly never felt grossed out or upset by the presence of the dude… in fact, I’ve felt more admiration than anything.

    I think I can see where you’re coming from, and it certainly would be intimidating for me to enter a yoga class of entirely men. But I hope that wouldn’t keep you from trying out something that is so awesome. Every class is different, so if I were you I would get in touch with some instructors and ask them about the dynamic of the class. You could even express concern over being one of the few men in the class, and I’m willing to bet you’d get more reassurance than anything.

    If that doesn’t work, and you wanna do the video route, there is so much out there it can kind of be overwhelming. Just searching “yoga” on Google or YouTube renders crazy amounts of videos. It might be worth spending half an hour looking through some of them to see if there’s any that you’re keen on. Also, there are generally piles of workout tapes/DVDs at the Salvation Army. Since they are so cheap, maybe you could buy a couple and see what they’re like? Yoga mats are also pretty cheap (like 10-20 bucks) and they can conveniently double as a sleeping mat, should the need arise.

    Also, spandex is for chumps! I always wear baggy pants and a t-shirt. Much more comfortable, if you ask me. These are the ones my yoga instructor recommends: http://www.dearlildevas.com/yoga_pants_cotton_men.htm

  7. Andrew, there were only ever one or two men in my Ottawa yoga class but here in Halifax, I’ve been to classes that have as many as 50% men, and have also had male instructors. Personally, I prefer a mix of gender, as well as a mix of skill level. Diversity= comfortabilityness. 🙂

  8. I took a class in university and it was great, I really liked the instructor. I have taken a couple classes since then, but I can’t find an instructor I like. I think I really took for granted the importance of the right instructor at that first yoga course.

    Also for videos. I haven’t found a yoga video I like either. I wish the instructor at UNB made videos.

    For me, I find it really distracting when I don’t like the instructor’s style. I can’t get in the groove.

    And Andrew, I think it’s cool when a dude shows up! It adds a new element to the class, and because men are generally stronger, they can do more poses or hold them for longer. When I used to go to the gym, I was never intimidated when it was full of guys, because I’m in a totally different league from them; however, if there was a female in there, I got crazy nervous!

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