Being Present and Observing Change
June 2020 | Written By Mohan
Often, we talk about balancing opposites. Let’s apply that here. But first, take a deep breath. Start with the inhale
A pause at the top.
A slow, fully, complete exhale.
And then return.
In yoga we are asked to be present. To think about each breath, each pose, and each individual bit of our body during the poses. Part of why we feel so good after only one hour of moving around on a yoga mat is that it is a full hour spent being present, removing distraction from the mind and allowing us to actively rest.
Rest is not passive. The only time it is passive is when we are sedated with drugs or alcohol. When this happens, we are not asleep. We have lost the ability to maintain consciousness, which is a very different and far scarier way to think about it.
So we are present in class. And over time,hopefully, we will notice that we are becoming “better” at poses, we’re able to maintain breathwork and arrive onto the mat more quickly. How do we know we are changing? By definition, change requires looking not only at the present, but the past. How can you be present and simultaneously observe change? Can you hold space for both of these ideas at once.
This is why I often begin class by asking you, in a certain pose, to take note of how it feels. To be hyper present. To observe and be curious is to enhance your feeling of being present in the moment. In a twist, I will ask students to observe what it feels like to take a full breath. Maybe, this early in class, they aren’t even able to stretch their lungs enough to breathe fully in a seated twist. Some 50 or so minutes later, at the end of class, I have us return to that pose. Again we sit, and twist. And again, I ask people to be present and observe how it feels to take a full breath. And then...see if we can observe change. Can you hold an awareness and observation of the present moment while noticing change from the past? Ideally, after a class, you’re now much more comfortable in the twist. You sit taller as you inhale more fully than before, and you twist more deeply as you can exhale completely and your muscles are more relaxed and stretched out.
By observing change, it’s possible to bring even more happiness into the present moment. And we only are ably to really, truly observe change by constantly being present in moments we might later want to be able to recall.
I do this exercise not only to show how our minds and bodies have changed, but to further enhance the good feelings in the moment. A yoga class feels good, but have you stopped and observed why? When you realize how much more you can breathe in a pose, it drives that home in a very meaningful way.
Now breathe again. Did it feel different?