Mindfulness Amidst the Chaos: What does Football have to do with Yoga?

We were recently inspired by an article in Harvard Business Review to share few tips on being mindful about your health this Fall.  The article offered these strategies if you're feeling overwhelmed.
  1. Pinpoint the primary source
  2. Set boundaries on your time & workload
  3. Challenge your perfectionism
  4. Outsource or delegate
  5. Challenge your assumptions
Building on this concept, we wanted to draw from our yoga practice to help others cope.  Applying some of the cues we offer during our yoga classes can help manage their hectic schedule. For example, treat every day as a new day & try to look with "beginner's eyes". It's not yoga perfect & we all face certain challenges, mental distractions & physical limitations.
In each class, we try to set the conditions for you to be Aware. Rather than trying to be perfect, we want you to build awareness of what is happening to your mind, body, & breath. We focus on these elements during each yoga class, in a safe & relatively controlled environment in order to prepare you to recognize (and cope) with the stresses of your daily life.
Our consciousness is informed by our senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel). The brain interprets our senses through the lenses of our perception, memories, psychology, and social or cultural conditioning. Being mindful begins with being aware that these actions (senses) and reactions (interpretations) are constantly at work. The lack of awareness of these factors does not diminish their impacts on our lives - thoughts, words, and actions.
Even more overwhelmed? Let's try using a football example; let's focus on just one play in a football game. Try to step back from the play & consider the 11 players on each team. Imagine each player is one of the five senses.
Now, climb up into the Goodyear blimp & observe the 10's of thousands of fans in the stands. Imagine each spectator as either Memory (i.e. city residents), Perception (i.e. season ticket holders for each team), or Psychology (i.e. owners, coaches), etc.
Being Aware during each play requires us to observe what each player senses, while also observing how the city, fans, and coaches interpret the play. Bringing Awareness to the play requires us to be an observer, witnessing the interpretation of the senses, in the moment it happens, while remaining still & without choosing sides.
The practice of yoga is the practice of joining our consciousness with stillness. (Ref: Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali). Being Aware means that we can observe the actions & reactions while remaining still (without tension).
Once the play is over, we continue moving forward into a new present moment. Just like the game, we can call for an instant replay, or even continue to debate the play for years to come. Dwelling on one play, is like letting one player/sense, or a misperception/ memory/psychology define your entire life. This is your choice.
And, the difference might be recognized this weekend when the 1-5 Redskins face off with the 5-0 49'ers, or the 0-5 Dolphins against the 4-1 Bills. A team's streak can be a powerful advantage, or a curse. The same type of memory can shape our perceptions of our senses in the present.  (As fate would have it, the Redskins have continued their losing streak & are now 1-7, facing the 5-1 Bills this weekend.  Which means, of course, the Bills beat the Dolphins.  Will both teams continue to suffer in a downward spiral for the remainder of the season, or will they find ways to let go of the streak & play in the present moment?)
Suffering is optional.
The intention of our yoga practice is to Be Aware of the present; not dwelling on the last posture, or being drawn into the next, Being Aware in the present prepares us to avoid many forms of suffering; including the feelings of being overwhelmed.
On our yoga mats, the individual postures usually get the most attention. Most of us like to see the results of our focus, balance, strength, stability, and all the benefits of our sweat. There are benefits to seeing yourself overcome challenges, while being mindful that every new moment is a new opportunity.
We can be mindful that, in actuality, we only hold each posture for a few moments; usually, just a few cycles of breath. Are these brief moments more important to your practice than the remaining majority of the time spent on your yoga mat? With mindfulness, we can be aware of the present moment, see it for what it is & then let it go.
For some, the depth of your practice might be found at the edge of the physical posture. For others, you may discover more in the pauses between postures, or the brief moments between each inhale & exhale. In either space, the work is to find stillness - the absence of conflict.
Try to look at each Present moment with beginner's eyes. Challenge your perceptions, memories, and even the psychology of your reactions; both on & off your mat. Try to notice how you feel about what you see or hear, and try to be mindful of how you react.
Just remember, you're all doing great as long as you continue to practice. You don't have to be perfect. Regardless of why you're practicing, set your intention to be Present & take it easy on yourself.