Recently a friend asked me, “what is mind yoga?” I responded that it’s thinking deeply about something you just read, heard or saw. It’s realizing what we’re thinking about and making an effort to determine if that thought is serving us or not. It’s taking your thinking to the next level.
I started incorporating (physical) yoga into my workout about a year ago. Although I am by no means a ‘yogi’, I love the way I feel during and after a yoga session. I love stretching my body and breathing consciously through each move, allowing myself to concentrate fully on the task at hand and feeling empowered and at peace while doing so. The mind-body awareness and balance which yoga provides to our ever-demanding lives is beneficial to all who practice it. But when you can’t get to yoga class, or you want to work out your mind instead of your body, I recommend a little ‘mind yoga’.
Our minds are our most powerful asset and scientists predict we have over 50,000 thoughts a day. Add to this a statistic which says we check our phones over 80 times a day, and I believe we need to learn to give our mind a healthy rest from all the clutter it receives. We can focus our attention in a mental workout, similar to yoga but without the physical moves.
When we consciously realize our thoughts, we can decide whether we want to think the thought we have or not. How come no one ever taught us this?
Why do we go through grade school, high school and college, and some of us even graduate school, and no one tells us this vital fact? It sounds so simple, but how often do you ever really notice all the thoughts you have in a day? Why do we spend our time thinking about things that frustrate us? Since learning this valuable fact, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned to realize that just because we have a thought, it does not mean it is true. Our thoughts are not always factual, but they do determine how we feel. We can chose what we want to think about, but it can be helpful to first delve into our thoughts and see in a typical day what we spend our time thinking about.
Here’s an exercise for your mind to try over the next week or two—write down 5-10 different thoughts you have each day. Seriously, throughout the day—notice your thoughts and write down a few. Don’t think (no pun intended) too hard about what you are going to write—just notice a thought and write it down. Eventually, you may start to see a pattern. Maybe (if you’re like most of us) you will start to see thoughts you have which involve wanting to change someone else (i.e. “I wish my spouse, kid, friend, boss, would …” or “they should/shouldn’t have done…”). How many thoughts are about your past? How many are about your future? Keep a thought journal if you want—I know, I know—what if someone finds it? Yikes! OK, put it on your phone then, either as a note or a voice memo. Whatever method you choose, IF you want to do it—I guarantee you will discover more about yourself then perusing Facebook or playing Words with Friends—two activities I do enjoy but try to control my usage of, ‘cause I get sucked in to these apps and lose precious time without even realizing it.
If you notice a pattern and want to change it, awareness is key. Once you realize you are having the same thought and you don’t like the way it makes you feel—and all of our feelings come from our thoughts—try to change the thought.
Even a slight shift in the thought can make you feel better.
“I can’t lose weight” is a thought that may make us feel bad about ourselves. “I’m going to eat a healthy breakfast” is a thought that may serve you better. Or try, “I can do anything I set my mind to do,” although that thought at this moment might be a stretch for a lot of people. Start off with a small shift in your thought. “My mother-in-law drives me crazy” could be shifted to “I’m grateful my mother-in-law lives far way”—you get the idea. Try it with a few thoughts and see if you feel different.
I’ll give you one more thought to ponder. It’s not my quote, but it’s good ‘mind yoga’ and a provocative topic to think about alone and talk about amongst friends: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”