Life is made up of everyday moments and actions. We’re not that different from other animals - we gather food, take care of the kids and the nest, groom, eat and sleep. If we’re lucky enough to develop awareness of the present moments, we end up finding joy in them. This is mindfulness. We yogis have a head start in this department because we’ve been developing awareness since the day we started practicing. So what if you want to develop this awareness further? You continue to practice. You do yoga often and you become devoted to it. You make yoga a regular part of your life - like walking the dog, like sleeping. If you make yoga one of your everyday activities, mindfulness will seep into every corner of your life.
You get good at what you practice. If you practice awareness, you’ll get good at it. If you run around anxiously, never taking a moment to be present, you’ll get good at that. Life’s pressures come flying at us constantly. Barring emergencies or stressful situations, it’s up to us what we do on an everyday basis. You have the choice: to pack your life with activity in the name of productivity or in chasing excitement, or to keep space in your life to maintain and grow a steady practice of mindfulness. Because when you practice yoga deeply and often, the awareness you build spreads like the blob (a good blob) into all the parts of your off-mat life. Walking the dog becomes a study in your walking posture, the thoughts passing through your head, the visual picture of rain splashing on your dog’s back. Your eyes are opened to the wonders of what you thought were mundane moments. This is a mindful life.
A serious yogi can pinpoint the time he/she went from doing yoga recreationally to doing it regularly. There’s a point at which yoga becomes as much a part of your life as showering. The great yoga teacher Vanda Scaravelli said, “At first, you must make yourself do yoga. Eventually, yoga pulls you up by the hair and makes you do it.” In the phase when you’re making yourself do yoga, you develop so much, whether it’s a release of stress, a steadier mind, a more joyful perspective, diminishing of back pain, looser hamstrings, a more upright posture or a feeling of grounding. If you then miss a few days of practice, you’ll notice some of your ailments and habits creeping back. For me, I can handle about two days off max. At that point, my sore back drags me to the mat, pleading for relief. If for some reason I’m unable to get to my practice for one more day, I’m miserable. It’s the same with meditation. After two days, I experience too much anxiety and I need to sit and let my thoughts still. There’s nothing else I can do to alleviate the suffering. Pushing yourself to practice regularly leads you, in time, to making yoga an essential part of your life.
There are special moments in life; and they’re wonderful. But they’re few and far between. If we only have awareness in special moments, then we’ll be cheating ourselves of much joy. Mindfulness slows the pace so that you can take in the scenes that were once whizzing by. Making yoga one of your everyday activities activates mindfulness and spreads it across the stage of your life. Living in your aware state, you may observe Joy moving stage left to find his spotlight.