My last few yoga classes have focused on using the body and breath to bring us into the present moment. Yoga's ability to keep me present is what started me down the yogic path and what keeps me practicing.
As someone who experiences a fair amount of anxiety, I spend much of my time thinking about the future. I worry about what is coming next and make plans to make sure things go smoothly. Nothing wrong with a little preparation. However, when this future dwelling becomes my dominant way of being, I am just going through the motions of life and not living it fully.
As John Lennon put it in "Beautiful Boy","Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."
Or as the sage Ferris Bueller proclaimed, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."
I don't want my life to go by while I am busy making other plans. I want to stop and look around once in a while. I want to be fully present for my life, but it is so hard! It is one thing to say you are going to live in the present moment, but quite another to actually do it.
This is where yoga comes in. With its focus on bringing awareness to the body and to the breath, yoga is a wonderful tool for helping us enter into the "here and now." As our bodies and breath only exist in the present moment, when we are paying attention to them, our focus is, by necessity, in the present moment. Of course, our minds will wander-minds do that-but our body and breath give us something to come back to and to anchor us in the present moment.
Maintaining focus on the breath and body is more difficult than it sounds. Often when we bring our awareness to a bodily sensation, we start to tell stories about it: “I have a pinch in my neck. I must have slept strangely. I need a new pillow. I should go buy a new pillow at lunchtime tomorrow." Suddenly a pain in the neck has us off shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond when we want to be present. When this happens, we want to just notice the stories and then gently bring our focus back to the bare sensation.
The more we practice bringing our awareness into the present moment on the mat, the better we become at doing so in our lives. The more we show up in our lives, the fuller our lives become. Who knows? If you keep practicing, you may one day find yourself on a parade float singing Twist 'n Shout.