Become More Mindful Through Mind, Body & Breath

“Be in the moment”. “Be present”. “Be mindful”. But what do they really mean?

In the LesMills BodyBalance classes I teach, in the Tai Chi part, we always talk about how it’s bringing you into “the present moment”. From learning and teaching it, I learned the true meaning of being in the present moment. When you do Tai Chi, you focus on the movements of your hands and your breath. The movements and the concentration they require {much like Yoga does} forces you to come into the present moment. 

And that is actually what being mindful is. It’s about being in the room, being present and being aware of your mind, body, and breath. 

It’s a tool we instructors use when teaching yoga classes, but it’s also a great tool to apply everywhere else in life. Through teaching these classes over the years I have learned to become more mindful, and learned to “be in the present moment”.

It helps a lot, especially when you’re in a bad mood or when your thoughts are in an endless loop. Or when you just need to focus. An easy way to do it is to become aware of the three things I mentioned above: your mind, your body, and your breath.

Your mind

Being in the moment is about being aware of your thoughts and making sure they aren’t self-critical, negative or useless mind-chatter. Here are a few ways you can calm a chaotic mind and centre your thoughts to become more present:

  • When your thoughts are driving you insane, focus on the here and now. Feel the seat beneath your hips. Feel the air in your lungs as you breathe. Notice the sounds around you. This will help you centre yourself and bring you into the moment, thus slowing your thoughts down.

  • Become aware of what you’re feeling and thinking about all the time. Remember that thoughts generate from feelings, feelings don’t generate from thoughts.
  • Detach from your negative feelings. You are not the feeling, you are experiencing the feeling. Observing what you’re feeling from a distance will help you stop endless negative thoughts generating from that feeling.
  • Try to let go of negative feelings. Letting go can be as simple as acknowledging the feeling, then breathing it out.

  • Tell yourself it’s okay to have bad thoughts. Giving yourself permission helps you to let go of them as you won’t battle in your head as to why you’re feeling like this.
  • Meditation is a very useful tool to calm and focus your thoughts. Meditation can be as simple as closing your eyes, making your body very still, and focusing on the breath. It can be done even for a few minutes, in any position.
  • An extremely underrated method of calming the mind is to read a book. Reading forces the mind to focus on the story or the narrative. It's an easy but powerful way to relax your thoughts.
  • Lastly, a trick we teach in the meditation part of the class- simply push your thoughts away. Your brain’s function is to naturally produce thoughts. So don’t fight it. Let the thoughts come, but gently push away any negative or unpleasant thoughts.

Your body

The mind not being present affects the body. If you think of stressful thoughts, muscles will tense up, posture will change, heartbeat and breathing become faster. Working the other way round, you can thus focus externally on your body to relax the mind.

  • Focus on each muscle group from head to feet and consciously relax each muscle. Relax your forehead, your eyes, muscles of the face, shoulders, all the way down to your feet and soon you’ll notice your mind has relaxed and you become more present.
  • If you don’t have the time to do this, simply try relaxing your eyes and your jaw. Relaxing these two parts of the body helps the entire body become calmer.
  • Give yourself a massage. Massage your feet, your hands, or try a gentle face massage. Do it with all your attention on that part of the body. This will make your mind focus on your body and calm the mind.
  • Of course, any exercise helps calm the mind down as you're too busy focusing on the body for the mind to have erratic thoughts. So when you have monkey-mind, try a workout or do some push-ups.

Your breath

When we’re not fully present, our breath changes. It’s shallow. You might not even notice that you’re holding your breath. Focusing on your breath is a simple way to become mindful again. 

  • Learn how to belly breathe. This is how you should be breathing all the time. A simple way to do this is to place one hand on your belly and breathe deep all the way to your stomach, feeling it rise and then fall under your hand. Practice this daily for a few minutes until it becomes a habit and you’re doing it all the time.

  • When you’re feeling stressed or hounded by your thoughts, deepen your breaths. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in, all the way to your belly. You’ve probably read this in a million places. That’s because it works, and it’s a fast and easy way to relax both the mind and body. 
  • When you’re especially stressed and anxious, lengthen your out-breath. Breathe in for a few counts, then double those counts on your exhale. You can even try and hold the breath for a few counts after you inhale. This helps in slowing down your mind and centring you.

Almost all the tricks of the mind, body and breath overlap each other. One affects the other. Your breath affects the body, focusing on the body will slow down the mind, and relaxing the body will relax both the mind and the breath.

Having a peaceful mind, a relaxed body and breathing deeply are great habits to cultivate. The next time you feel like you're not centred or that you have too much on your mind, try one or combine a few of these methods to come into the present moment.

Read more on self-love, self-care and handling your emotions, in my book, Loving Yourself In Style. Get it online, or mail ndqamber{at}gmail{dot}com for a signed copy if you're in Bahrain.

Are there any tricks you use to feel calmer and feel present instantly? What helps you be more mindful? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Shabana Feroze

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