Travel Off the Beaten Path

How to Build Your Strength of Mind

b2ap3_thumbnail_crowposeThe practice of hatha yoga focuses on strengthening the mind as well as the physical body.  Even though both areas are important, mental strengthening is often forgotten in this physically focused practice. How does it happen? How can you strengthen your mind as you strengthen your body?

Think about the last time you fell out of a pose.  

What was it that caused you to fall?

It’s likely that when you began your yoga practice, you fell out of poses often.  You lacked the physical strength or flexibility to successfully hold a pose.  But you practiced… over and over and over again.  You built up strength and flexibility one muscle strand at a time.  Through the practice of returning to the mat, over and over again, you began the process of strengthening your mind, whether you were aware of it or not.

Now, poses are getting easier, yet still you find yourself falling down now and then.  The cause is likely your mental focus.  The moment you go from thinking about engaging your inner thigh muscles in a crescent lunge to thinking about your weekend shopping list… BOOM! you are on your bum again.

In order to work deeper into a pose, you must focus your mind pointedly on what you are doing in that moment.  (I have found in my own practice that I am often unaware of my meandering mind until I fall on my bum.)  The mind is not so different from the body in this sense.  The more you practice honing your mind to be in the present moment, the easier it will become to stay away from meandering thoughts.  Your mind will grow stronger as you nurture and grow your mental focus.

Through mental persistence combined with your physical practice, you will continue to strengthen your mind.  Yes, there will be times when you will get frustrated with your practice… it happens to everyone, even teachers.  Instead of giving up, you can choose to come back to the mat.  The practice of returning to the mat, even after a rough practice, will nurture and strengthen your mental persistence.  You will always have proverbial “wrenches” thrown into your practice, but your continual return to the mat will strengthen both you mentally and physically.  That is how life works and life will reflect itself in your practice.

Each return to your practice will bring a new lesson, a new way to grow, heal or strengthen your body and mind.

Enjoy the journey!

What strategies do you use to focus your mind when you are on the mat?

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