Yoga practice: Getting Your Mind in the Right Place

By lessening the natural tendency for restlessness and by meditating on the infinite, posture is mastered.” – Yoga Sutras, Chapter 2, Sutra 47

Where is your mind during your yoga practice? Are you missing out on the wonderful feeling you can enjoy by becoming totally absorbed in your practice? Where your practice becomes a moving meditation…integrating asana, movement and mindfulness into a truly harmonious experience.

One of the defining principles of yoga practice is the union of our breath, body and mind. However, many of us tend to compartmentalise our yoga practice into separate elements devoted to asana, breath and meditation. Certainly, in our breath and meditation practices, our mind has a clear point of focus.

But given much of our yoga practice is devoted to asana, focussing your mind whilst transitioning from Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facig Dog) to Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1), is not so easy. Indeed, I observe so often when teaching a class, students watching other students with the mindset “Am I doing this right?” or “Why can’t I do that?” or “I’m going to get there at all costs” written on their face. When I first started attending classes it was not uncommon for me to be thinking about “What’s next” or even “What’s for dinner when I get home”.

Of course in class we can be forgiven for having such a thoughts. In my view, classes are about learning, making learning interesting and enjoyable, and providing us with the tools for developing a personal yoga practice. And it is at home where our practice can provide us with the truly harmonious experience many of us crave. It is my personal home practice that provides me with my own ‘yoga nourishment’.

Here, through my asana practice I seek to absorb my mind in the sensation of an integrated sequence of asana, breath and the transitions that link the asana together. Put simply, the practice becomes a moving meditation.

So how do we go about developing our moving meditation? Some suggestions:

1. Decide how much time you wish to devote to the practice and plan a sequence of asana that you feel are within your capabilities. Keep it short – no more than 15-20 minutes. Keep it simple with easy transitions, Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) is a good start.

2. Choose a place in your home that is quiet (if possible) and warm, with little chance of disturbance. It is good to have mantra playing in the background.

3. Start from a comfortable posture e.g. Tadasana (Mountain Pose) or Balasana (Child’s Pose) and take a few moments to deepen the breath and settle the mind, before you begin the sequence.

4. The first few times you commence your practice, pause at each asana and be mindful of the sensations it brings to you. Make the transitions as smooth and as simple as possible.

5. I find it also help to anchor the mind by incorporating ujjayi breathing into the practice.

6. You will be aiming for the sequence to become so familiar that you give little thought to the upcoming asanas and transitions and you will be able to always keep you mind in the present. This will enable you to absorb you mind on the performance of the practice and the ‘feel-good’ it brings to you.

7. At the conclusion of the practice, you can meditate on the breath for say 10-15 minutes.

In effect the practice will become a mindfulness meditation.

Over a period of time you can develop further sequences. I have put together a series of 18 sequences – three for each day taking some 45 minutes, having one-day’s rest.

You will of course, develop a practice to suit your own needs. The performance of asana can be so much more than bringing strength, mobility and flexibility to our body.

Can you get your mind in the right place?

The Joy of Teaching Yoga

For me, teaching yoga has been an incredible journey filled with joy and fulfilment. As a yoga teacher, I have had the privilege of sharing, with both students and fellow-teachers alike, the gift of this ancient practice with so many wonderful individuals. Witnessing their growth, both on and off the mat, has been profoundly rewarding and has given my life a sense of purpose and meaning.

One of the most gratifying aspects of my role as a yoga teacher is creating a supportive community within my classes. I've seen how these classes become a sanctuary for my students, where they can connect with like-minded individuals and feel a sense of belonging. It brings me immense joy to foster an environment where people can explore their bodies and minds freely, without judgment.

Of course not everyone has taken to my style of teaching. Some students feel my approach to physical practice can be challenging, some think mantra is not rally their ‘bag’. My style tends to be individual-centric where one’s practice needs to be adapted to suit the mindset and physique of the individual rather than conforming to a text book perfect posture.

I frequently look to incorporate vinyasa and sequences into yoga practice. And for these practices to combine mindfulness and so become moving meditations. This can bring a mind-body harmony into individual practice which they can take away to develop a personal practice.

Teaching yoga has also been a transformative journey for myself. To guide my students effectively, I look to cultivate a sense of mindfulness and presence during each class. This has led me to a deeper understanding of my own practice and helped me grow both as a teacher and as an individual. I find great satisfaction in the continuous learning and growth that comes with this role, always seeking to improve and refine my teaching methods.

I also see teaching as providing me with the opportunity to transform student’s lives as it has transformed my own. This goes beyond seeking physical change to providing the tools to help them overcome their limitations, find solace in stressful times, and discover a sense of purpose. Being a part of their journey and witnessing their growth fills me with gratitude and a profound sense of achievement.

Of course, being a yoga teacher also comes with its challenges. I've faced moments of self-doubt and made mistakes along the way. However, these experiences have allowed me to embrace imperfections and vulnerability, fostering personal growth and resilience. Through it all, I've learned to find a sense of reflection in these moments and appreciate the lessons they bring.

Teaching yoga has taught me to cultivate gratitude in my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to share this ancient wisdom with others and guide them on their path to well-being and self-awareness.

Teaching yoga has been a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The pleasure I experience from witnessing my students' progress and finding peace within themselves is immeasurable. It's a role that extends far beyond physical postures, as it allows me to foster mindfulness, inspire growth, and create a supportive community. Being a yoga teacher is not just a job; it is a vocation that brings joy, purpose, and fulfilment into my life each day. It has led me to the next phase of my yoga journey: to help guide others follow this path of self-discovery and transformation.

Interested in teaching yoga? Perry’s BWY Diploma/Certificate teacher training course commences in April 2024. Book a place on the free introductory day on 13 January 2024 at Walcote Memorial Hall, Lutterworth, Leicestershire. It will give you a chance to meet the course leaders, Perry and Dawn Wesselby, and learn more about the course.


Yoga Nidra

Group of people in sportswear practicing yoga indoors

One of the practices we have introduced into our classes is Yoga Nidra which is the Sanskrit for “yogic sleep”.

Many regard Yoga Nidra as a deep relaxation practice, and indeed it is very relaxing. But it is also much more.

Richard Miller, PhD, described the practice in his book;

“Yoga Nidra is a time-honored, reeducational process that teaches you how to blend profound relaxation with innate wisdom into every moment of your life. The practice of Yoga Nidra leads to sweeping changes within your mind and body, as well as in all your interpersonal relationships. It’s a fundamental resource for transforming your physical health as well as reshaping your personal, interpersonal, and professional relationships. Please understand that Yoga Nidra is not hypnosis, but rather the deepest and most profound but very natural state of meditation…”

The practice takes 20 – 30 minutes. The student lays on their mat in Savasana with any blankets, bolsters, eye pillows and blocks they need to keep themselves comfortable and warm.

The student can also prepare by settling on an affirmation or Sankalpa which they will recite to themselves at certain points of the practice. This takes the form of a short phrase that encapsulates a heartfelt personal goal.

The student is then led through the practice by the teacher who will give verbal instructions. These can involve body scanning, visualisations, watching the breath, sensory observations and of course, to recite to themselves their Sankalpa.

The practice becomes most effective in the "twighlight zone" – that place between being awake and being asleep. This is described as being in a hypnogogic state.

I find the practice leaves me exceptionally relaxed but energised and with a renewed sense of purpose. I hope my students feel this also - Perry