How to train your downward dog

I've been dabbling in yoga for a few years now and if there's one thing about the practice that keeps me going back to it is the fact that it forces you to pay attention to the present moment. Unlike other workouts where you can easily listen to an audio book or let your mind wander to a certain degree, yoga demands your full attention.

You really can't hold a half moon pose while thinking about what you're going to have for breakfast. Even the smallest distractions result in my losing the integrity of the posture and going off balance.

Even in resting poses like downward facing dog, I can't slack off. I need to pay attention to make sure my wrists aren't strained and my heels do touch the floor.

Being mindful of the posture makes it easy to transition from one pose to another. There's very little chance of staying stuck in just one pose for inordinately long periods of time.

The good thing about yoga is a lot of the stuff I discover on the mat serves me well off of it too.

My worst habit is that so much of my time is spent dwelling on the past and how I could have done things differently to get a different result.

I replay the scenes and call out suggestions — like that old uncle who watches the highlights of the match on TV and makes comments on poor shots.

A classic exercise in futility.

What yoga has taught me is to realise that wherever I am right now is just one pose in a lifetime of a series of positions I'll find myself in. The best possible thing I could be doing is to give my full attention to it and land it as perfectly as I can.

Then it's time to move to the next pose.

The past does not equal the future. Even if you go through the same things that happened in your last even in the future there's still a difference.

You're different this time around.

You're wiser and better.

Even if you do the same sun salutation 12 times, the stretches feel different, the exhales are longer and maybe just maybe your heels are finally on the ground for the last downward dog of your practice.

Whatever you’re stressing about, know that it was just one pose, one stance, one circumstance. And no, not everything has to ‘mean’ something. See things for what they are instead of ascribing deeper meanings or extrapolating your future based on one or two incidents of life.

Take a deep breath. Remember that no two people are the same, and no two moments are the same. Each one has its own resplendent story to tell. Open yourself up to each moment, one deep breath at a time.


Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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