Guest Blog by Yogasteya Member Stephanie Baham
So what is mindfulness? There are so many definitions that I have trouble keeping up with them! But one of my favourites is by Amber Karnes from Body Positive Yoga:
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, without judgment.
One moment? My brain loves to jump from thought to thought like a pinball machine. How can I begin to focus and become aware of the moment? Well, lucky for me, yoga has taught me how. Yoga has taught me to pay attention to my breath. That very action brings me into the moment and instills a sense of calm and simplicity. I breathe all day long without even knowing it. It’s one of the body’s constant actions. So why not pay attention to it every now and again?
I was watching one of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday shows and the topic was mindfulness. Near the end of the show, they showed a short film of middle school-aged children talking about how they cope with anger. All of them talked about breathing. Taking a deep breath, counting to 10 while taking deep breaths and paying attention to the breath. Children can do this! They are learning about the transforming power of the breath. The breath can bring you into mindfulness.
Some Yoga instructors may encourage you to inhale and exhale on a count. This is another great way to focus on the breath and stay in the moment. This technique encouraged me to meditate to music or chants that I could breathe to. For example, I have a recording of Buddhist monks chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum”. I inhale on one chant and exhale on the next. My breath becomes an ebb and flow, like an ocean wave. This brings me to another quote about mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.
I remember the first time I tried surfing…I kept slipping off the board. I could not stand up on that board…not even for a second. I remember telling my friend that I was going to stick to Boogie Boarding. I could ride any wave on a Boogie Board. So that’s what I did. I found my own way to ride the waves of the ocean. And with mindfulness and breathing, I’ve found a way to ride the symbolic waves of life.
Here’s another ocean story…last year I was in Maui for my best friend’s wedding. The day before, we hung out at the beach and went swimming. I was body surfing a few waves, but they weren’t very big. So I looked out towards the Hawaiian ocean and yelled “Come on is that all you got?!”
A few seconds later a huge wave rolled in and knocked my on my smart alecky keister. I tumbled a head over heels a few times and eventually wound up on the shore, sitting upright. I threw my hands in the air and yelled “Woohoo I’m upright!” The first moral of the story is don’t taunt Mother Ocean. The second moral of the story is that life’s waves will sometimes take you exactly where you need to be. Practicing mindfulness can help you enjoy those moments. While I was tumbling ashore my only thought was “I’m tumbling ashore.” That actually alleviated my fear, since I was covered in ocean and didn’t know which way was up for a second.
Mindfulness can help us confront fear, focus on the moment, achieve calmness and help us to enjoy the waves. Let’s dive in!
Stephanie Baham is a 44 year old woman born and raised in Los Angeles. Stephanie is currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Outside of her 9-5 job as an insurance agent, she enjoys Yoga, Tarot, film, books and yummy dining. Her Yoga journey as a plus-sized woman ranges from taking small classes to attending conferences to practicing at huge outdoor events. She has an interest in all types of Yoga and her dream is to teach one day. Connect with Stephanie on Facebook to learn more about her yoga journey.