I, like many of you, listen to the Prime Minister’s announcements and wonder how my life, the lives of my family and friends and my business will be impacted. Some nights my mind becomes flooded with thoughts, doubts and uncertainties to threaten my sense of calm and restful sleep. Through my years of yoga and mindfulness practice, I am able to use techniques to slow these thoughts, to recognise them as just thoughts and to drop into sleep. It is normal for these thoughts to keep popping up and as sure as day follows night, often they are waiting to begin nagging again in the morning and threaten my wellbeing. After many years of practice, letting go of negative thoughts isn’t something I have to consciously tell myself to do, it is automatic for me to notice the negativity and for me to slip into mindful meditation.
There is nothing magical about the techniques of yoga and mindfulness, they are simple and open to anyone. Intuitively, we all have this knowledge and these skills. Lifestyle and modern society has just made us forget that we do and so we must commit to practicing until they become second nature once more. In my Tuesday night live Facebook sessions @yoginisyoga you can try some of these techniques, pick your favourite ones and start to employ them, at first consciously, but soon you will find that you too activate your automatic pilot.
I have recently been reading a book titled Uncharted, by Colette Baron-Reid.
She describes how we fall into this way of thinking in a way which I find simple to understand and so I will briefly share this with you.
She talks about the small mind and the great mind and a curtain which separates the two.
The small mind is driven by fear and when negative thoughts or chatter start to overwhelm our brain, it pulls a big dark curtain between itself and the great mind to protect it from the noise.
It believes it is doing a good job to protect us, but in reality it is trapping us in familiar thought patterns even though these are not nourishing and may even be inherited rather than our own.
This negativity feeds our personal power, our ‘dragon’, and this becomes our story and we believe it. To fulfill our own true potential we must take control of our own personal power and tame the dragon.
The small mind filters out a lot of information taken in by the subconscious but this is stored in the great mind. It is here that every memory and possibility exists. Unfortunately, whilst we continue to allow the chatter to feed the dragon, the curtain remains closed and the great mind cannot be heard.
Through mindful meditation we can stop the chatter, tame the dragon, draw back the curtain and create a new story.
When the first lockdown began there was a large uptake of people wanting to train and access mindfulness as a way to support their mental health and that of their children's.
How many of you did that and have now given up the practice because your small mind has convinced you that you're doing it wrong so you should just stop, or that you don’t need to practice because it didn’t work for you?. This is common among those who struggle to pull their awareness back into the present moment. If you can identify with this please persevere, the more you practice the more you are able to reach beyond the small minds chatter.
For children the small mind is less powerful, knowledge isn’t filtered and so the earlier we are able to learn mindfulness skills and the more they are practiced and reinforced, the more likely they are to become second nature. This is the reason Yoginis Yoga programmes start with early years and why they are based on routine and repetition. What greater sword could we give the children in our care to help them own their dragons.
This is further backed up by Dr Meera Joshi in an article on the changing brain, stating that our brains can change for the better when we practice mindfulness.
Scientists have used MRI scans to see how the brain changes when people practice mindfulness. Evidence suggests that particular areas of the brain may either shrink or grow in response to regular mindfulness practice. Here are a few examples.
Mindfulness and stress - Research shows that after practicing mindfulness, the grey matter in your brain’s amygdala, a region known for its role in stress can become smaller.
Mindfulness and creativity - The prefrontal cortex is the area of your brain responsible for things like planning, problem solving, and controlling your emotions. The grey matter in this area can become thicker after practicing mindfulness, showing increased activity in these areas of thought.
Mindfulness and memory - An area of the brain known as the hippocampus helps your memory and learning. This area can also become thicker after practicing mindfulness