by Chelsea Barnard
This past week I’ve had the opportunity to teach three yoga classes, and each was incredibly different: one was for a corporate company, the next was a chair yoga class for the financial firm I work for, and the last was for the yoga studio where I became a yoga instructor. Regardless of the audience, I reminded them that this one hour was for them. An hour of time set aside for whatever they needed it to be.
Over the last six years, I’ve learned so much through my yoga journey, especially during last fall when I completed my 200 hour yoga teacher training with Black Swan Yoga in Dallas. Yet even as I grow in my practice, I continue to love and appreciate how grounded I feel when I practice or teach yoga. One of the aspects that I truly admire about the yoga practice is how it encourages us to look inward before focusing on the external body. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like I tend to go through life as if I’m a whirlwind and tend to allow myself to stay incredibly busy throughout the week. Whether it’s work, spending the time with our families, or side projects or side hustles, it seems we often forget to take some very important time for ourselves, to regroup and replenish, so we have something to offer the world.
I deemed 2019 to be a year focused on change and transition in my life; for once, I’m accepting that I don’t fully know what’s ahead in the next 3-5 years (and I’m actually finding myself okay with that fact!). Why? I’ve acknowledged the importance of stillness.
Taking five minutes—sometimes only two—to take a breath, and in these inhalations and exhalations, I’ve become more aware of myself and what I need to feel satisfied with the life I’m living.
The practice of yoga is interestingly different from other sorts of exercise, at least from my experience, mainly because it values all of the nonphysical elements of the practice as much as, or, perhaps, even more than, the physical ones (the “asanas”). I’ve heard from some instructors that only 5% of the yoga practice is the asanas, or the yoga poses. The rest? It’s internal.
By looking inward, I’ve learned I create unnecessary stressors in my life, whether that be from unrealistic or untrue expectations I set on myself or those expectations I assume others have for me. By taking a moment to focus on my breath and my mental state, I’ve found a way to “reclaim” my energy and I’ve become comfortable with reminding myself I have so much to share.
This last month my sister Elle and I had the opportunity to take a two week trip to Columbia with El Camino Travel and Condé Nast, in their premiere all women’s trip (learn more about it and similar opportunities here!). I took the time to meditate, to journal, and to reflect on this past year. I came back full of excitement, new ideas for how + where to teach yoga, and an appreciation for the country’s culture and overall chill & creative vibe.
As we gear up for spring break and more summer activities and vacations, I’d like to arm you with a handful of simple yogic actions we can incorporate into our day to refill our mental and emotional cups. It’s not selfish; it’s self-love – to be (mine)ful.
(Mine)fulness Act #1 – build a mantra
A mantra is basically just a motto or saying that one can use in order to meditate or to encourage oneself. I think of them as little scripted pep talks I can use, whenever I’m down or not feeling top notch, or even just to kickstart my day. The one I’ve been using this year I first heard and fell in love with on an episode of Yoga by Candace, a terrific podcast run by Candace Moore (who I started following a few years back, thanks to Chey’s recommendation. Seriously, highly recommend checking her out if yoga’s your jam). The mantra goes like this:
I have nothing to prove.
No one to impress.
Everything to share.
I love the simplicity of this mantra. It reminds me to shake off any need to compare myself to others or to their expectations (which I may have very likely imagined anyway). It reminds me to center myself on what I have to offer. Everyone—seriously, everyone!!—has something unique to offer, some perspective that can shed light on a situation or experience in a different way. And that’s encouraging to me.
(Mine)fulness Act #2 – take 5 deep breaths
If making mantras don’t tickle your fancy or if finding one online seems overwhelming, you can always come back to your breath. This is a constant trial for me, and my iWatch, in particular, likes to remind me when I’m holding my breath. Isn’t it madness how we can go throughout the day holding our breath? All that overanalyzing and anxiety.
Inhale: slowly, through the nose, filling the belly, the ribs, the chest.
Then slowly let it out through the mouth, along with any fears or doubts.
Repeat four more times. (Or, as many as you need.)
It’s amazing how much good oxygen does for a body.
(Mine)fulness Act #3 – do a music meditation
No matter if you’ve gone to countless yoga classes or never even whispered the word “namaste,” this one is for you. Find a song on your phone, the computer, your friend’s phone (it really doesn’t matter). Find one that calms you or inspires you, perhaps with orwithout lyrics. You can either sit on the ground with legs crossed or against a wall; however, I recommend you don’t lie down completely, unless you want the possibility of your meditation turning into a siesta. You may want to sit on a pillow or floor cushion if that feels more comfortable to you. Sit up straight. Gently place your hands on your knees; palms facing up for energy, palms facing down for grounding. Begin to flicker your eyes closed, and listen to the song, letting the soft music play as your mind begins to wander. My favorite encouragement here is to remind myself and students to not judge your thoughts; instead, act as though you are just watching them pass by, observing without judgement. Becoming more aware of how and why you are thinking.And soon enough, your song will be over. You can find plenty of meditative songs online. I love this option because I feel it makes meditation accessible to anyone. Anyone can spend 3 minutes listening to a good song.
Chelsea Kaye Barnard is a yoga instructor, poet, and director of product development. She lives in Dallas with her two cats, Scully and Francesca, and she enjoys a good oat milk latte on the weekends. She’s passionate about finding ways to use creativity + poetry to create diverse communities.
You can find her on Instagram at @mademoisellechelsea or send her a snazzy email at firstname.lastname@example.org.