Reflection from PYR Ambassador, Elisa Hayden: Mindfulness on the Mat at Boushall Middle School.
“Twice a week, my co-leader, Sara Lovelace, and I would walk into a middle school gym not sure what to expect. Each week, we introduced intentionally planned yoga practices, in hopes that these students, ages 11-13, would feel some relief from the everyday stress of life.
We worked a lot on self-reflection; on who we are as individuals, what makes us unique, how we react to situations, and how we can find calm in those moments. I was constantly amazed by how receptive the students were to this.
“Lay down and close your eyes. Think about something special in your life. Breathe in (1..2..3..) And breathe out. Then, (gong), then think about something you want to do in the future. – Mindfulness on the Mat Student
Sometimes, at the end of sessions, we don’t really know what impact the work will have on our students. We hope, as teachers, that they take the tools that they have learned and apply them to their lives every day. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s normal. However, this time around, we had the students write their own meditations based on their favorite parts of class and we were blown away. They ARE listening. They ARE getting it.
“Get in a comfortable area or position. Then relax your entire body. Dream that your back in your house or castle and then you see snow outside. You wish you can go outside but you have no winter clothes. So then you try to create your own winter clothes. You go outside and you breath the winter air.”- Mindfulness on the Mat Student
These small practices that seem simple to us as yogis have a much greater effect on our lives than I think any of us will ever know. I am so glad that I can share this with youth since their days bring more stress now than ever before. It is an honor and a privilege.
Mindfulness on the Mat Students, Boushall Middle School 2017
It is hard for me to find words that describe how my heart felt after this past session of Mindfulness on the Mat at NextUp Boushall. I have always felt something pulling me towards working with youth and this session just proved why PYR is doing the work that it does.
I think one of the most vital parts of PYR is it’s heart, and the hearts of the ambassadors who make up the studio and outreach programs. It is incredibly powerful working with someone who has the exact same passion for this work, along with the same desire to make people, especially pre-teens, feel seen, valued, and heard.” – Elisa Hayden
“OK everybody start taking deep breaths…Then start to think about the best time ever. It might be a birthday party, it could be your friend came over. Whatever it is think about what made it the best time ever. Take deep breaths. Inhale…Exhale… Think about where the best time ever took place. It might have been at home, at school, at the park. Think about who was there with you. Take a deep breath…inhale…exhale. It might have been your mom, your dad, friend, enemy. Then start to think of what you did. It might have been played video games, ate pizza, played tag. Take deep breath…Inhale…exhale. Wiggle your finger and toes. Now stretch. Whenever you ready you can get up.” -Mindfulness on the Mat Student
by PYR Ambassador Amy Taylor
Hey there, PYR supporters! Thank you for making the world a more mindful place.
Research tells us that mindfulness practice helps reduce stress, improve performance and enhance relationships. It makes sense. When we calm down and get centered, life flows more smoothly.
Yet it’s so hard for most of us to unplug from the outer world and plug in to our inner power source. This is where yoga comes in to work its magic.
Yoga is the gateway.
Yoga allows us to “do” something that feels great, strengthens our bodies, improves our health and — oh yeah —requires that we step away from the clamor of the world and tune in to our inner voice.
When we practice yoga, we are practicing mindfulness. We focus on the breath. We guide our wandering minds back to the present. We grow more mindful by the moment. And we are changed by the effort.
Sometimes, when I leave a yoga class, I notice that trees seem greener as they dance in the breeze. Birds sing in harmony. The air smells like cotton candy. Often, I’m inspired to reach out to a friend or take action towards my dreams.
Always, I’m grateful to be alive.
Exercise alone never gave me those side effects. I believe it’s because practicing yoga makes me more mindful.
History tells us that yogis practiced asana, or physical postures, in order to build up the stamina to sit in meditation, which supported them in attaining advanced states of spiritual consciousness.
Honestly, though I have practiced yoga for 18 years and taught for eight, I have been unable to sit still and meditate on a regular basis. Or at least I didn’t choose to make it a priority.
That changed this year. Maybe all those years of yoga practice prepared me. Who knows? But now I have a daily meditation practice. It’s a source of true bliss.
Project Yoga Richmond offers Mindful Meditation for 30 minutes at lunchtime on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These classes are a wonderful way to weave mindfulness into your days and your life. Give them a try.
Or just give yourself credit for practicing mindfulness whenever you step on your yoga mat. You are building physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stamina that will nourish and sustain you, our community and our world.
So thank you, PYR community! Your mindfulness matters.
Visit our class schedule to see what meditation can do and find the class that is right for you!