Mindfulness, Yoga and Meditation: Tips for Feeling More in Control

Scroll down for yoga videos and meditations.

What are fireworks? They are colourful, bright, beautiful and a symbol of a celebration. They can also be painful, loud and scary.. if you see them that way. I like to view thoughts like fireworks. They can paint a beautiful, awesome picture if you have them under control. Out of control and they can be too loud and even painful. The most important thing to remember, however, is that you are always in control. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, you have autonomy. Thoughts are like clouds passing over our sky, they may cloud our consciousness but they do not define our existence.

As the Tao says, “Stop thinking, and end your problems.”  Here are some things I practise to think less, and live more in the present.

Mindfulness: Stepping Back From Negative Thought Cycles

Anxiety is like when you’re trying to untangle a hair band from your hair, the more frustrated you become the harder you pull, and the harder you pull the more tangled your hair gets. A friend once told me that if you guide the hairband gently it comes free by itself – without really doing anything except nimbly moving your fingers. Creating a clear mind takes patience; trying to force your mind to relax will probably only succeed in convincing it that there is something wrong. That is why it is important to remember that thoughts are just passing waves of the mind; they only have power if we decide to give them power.

Yoga: The Mental and Physical Health Benefits

Anxiety or general nervousness can be caused by many underlying factors which we’re not even aware of. This includes our respiratory system – something which Yoga can help control. The breathing exercises involved in Yoga help to regulate our stress response system decreasing worrying thoughts over time. Yoga includes the practice of concentration (Dharana) which has been proven to improve memory over time. Giving yourself time in the day to step out of day to day mundanities allows you to see the illusion that is negative thoughts, and take the decision to focus on the positive.

Before I begin a yoga class, whether in a studio or at home, I begin by standing at the top of my matt and clearing my mind of all thoughts, bringing myself into the present. I view this time as time away from worrying; whatever may be on my mind can wait for later. Now is the time for moving the body and listening to what it is feeling.

Here is one of my favourite yoga routines:

Meditation: How the Ancient Indian Practise Can Help Calm the Mind 

It is best not to begin meditation with the purpose of curing any problem or stress, but rather with the intention of becoming more present in the moment and less caught up in your current thoughts and emotions. It can be easy to feel that thoughts and feelings define who we are, but the reality is that we define them. Taking 10 to 20 minutes in the day (I find the morning or evening the best time) to focus on your breathing and simply letting your thoughts pass through your mind as objectively as possible can help bring us this perspective.

There are various types of meditation you can try.

  • Repeating a mantra

This is very simple, and requires focus and concentration. The objective is to focus all your energy on a mantra, such as “I am in control”, and ignore other thoughts which arise. This technique becomes easier and more rewarding the more you practice it.

  • Focusing attention on an object

Similar to the technique mentioned above, this involves focuses your sight and attention on one object. I like to use a candle flame, as I find it soothing. The objective is to quieten the mind. This technique requires patience, which will grow and become more powerful as you practice.

  • Breathing (pranayama) practises

Pranayama means controlling the breath. Breathe is the source of our prana, or vital life force.

Kundalini is a type of yoga which involves different breathing patterns. It has a strong and immediate affect on state of mind. ‘Breathe of Fire’ is one technique which involves taking long deep breathes and then breathe out until you feel that your diaphragm has emptied, and then breathing in as deeply as possible to refill the diaphragm. Whilst you do the breathing it is recommended to either sit cross legged with a straight back or lie down with a straight back.

I also like to practice the Ice Man Technique by Wim Hof, it involves breathing fast strong breathes 30 times then stopping and holding the breathe for 40 seconds. You then breathe out and breathe another 30 fast breathes then hold for 50 seconds, and so on.

Grounding Techniques 

Another thing which helps me to create a clear mind is to conscientiously focus my attention outwards by admiring the world around me, rather than inwardly paying attention to myself and my thoughts.

Grounding techniques allow you to become more aware of what is around you through sight, sound and smell. I have found the most effective method to be repeating what it is you sense in your mind.

First, repeat to yourself three things you see. Then three things you can hear, three things you can feel and anything that you can taste or smell. For example, “I can see a tree with red leaves”. This helps to bring your mind back to the present moment.

The realisation that the nature will always be there, in all it’s perfection, always gives me comfort.

“At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.”
Lao Tzu

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