The Value Of Practicing Mindfulness

practicing mindfulness, girl doing yoga on the beach
📷: Jennifer Regnier

I’ve never considered myself a ‘yogi,’ though I’ve always loved the practice. To me, the act of slowing down, paying attention to my breath, and releasing present stress is beautiful. In terms of exercise, though, I’ve always found myself drawn to open roads, shoes slapping on pavement, and weights in my palms. I love the rush of a good run, a good lift. And though yoga has always tapped into an inner side of me, I was never pulled to fully commit. This morning, though, I was invited by a friend and found myself falling into that comfortable rhythm again.

From the moment I stepped into the room, wiggled off my shoes, unfolded my mat still covered with last month’s beach yoga sand, and took my first breath, I was reminded of how it feels to re-ground, re-center with myself. This is a practice and state of mind I’m always striving for.

As the class started, I promised myself I would commit. I would be in the now. I would stop worrying about the next thing and just listen to my heartbeat, feel the muscles pull and twist. And as sweat dripped from my face, my hips ached with a deep stretch, and my fears melted away, I was reminded of the art of mindfulness and how truly valuable it is.

Being mindful is a practice so essential to the fabric of our humanness, but something we so often neglect. In our day-to-day lives we rush, we move, we live, we fight—and we forget, sometimes, to simply be. We crowd our schedules with tasks and events. We spend our spare minutes answering emails, watching video clips, or endlessly scrolling through media threads. We watch shows, read books, fill our lives with conversations, podcasts, stories, thoughts—so many beautiful things—but things that continually pull us away from the natural rhythm of our hearts.

What does it mean to be present? This seems like a silly, simple question but it’s one I’m continually asking myself. Present, to me, feels like lying next to my boyfriend’s son in bed, my finger following along as he reads each word in his book. It feels like sitting outside on the back patio watching the sunrise with a dog cuddled between my legs. It feels like putting my phone down and closing my eyes at the end of a long day. It feels like a deep breath and each rib, each vertebrae opening along my chest and back.

Being present is understanding where you are in the universe and how that place is both important and intended. It’s realizing that you cannot change or erase what has happened or plan for what will. The only choice you have is to embrace what is.

And when you choose to acknowledge that truth, when you choose to acknowledge the presence that you fill with your physical body, with your energy, and with your heart—that’s mindfulness. That’s knowing who you are and the space you’re allowed to take up.

To be mindful is to understand that there are some things you cannot make sense of, some things so far out of your reach they are not meant to be understood. To be mindful is to acknowledge the room you take, while simultaneously honoring that which breathes and moves around you, and accepting how these often vastly different pieces form a whole.

This mindfulness doesn’t have to come from yoga. It doesn’t have to come from a church, from a self-help book, from a mediation session at the top of a mountain or in front of the ocean. It can be a sliver of time in a crowded day or a simple as looking at your reflection in a mirror and smiling at your inherent worth.

Mindfulness is feeling each breath enter your lungs and feeling rooted—even when you don’t understand your path, even when you’re unsure of your next step, even when there are a thousand things pulling you in different directions, even when you’re walking with a heavy heart.

And that is what yoga today did for me: a reminder of who I am and how that being is ever-evolving. A reminder that perfection is unobtainable and I am okay right here where I am.

In that class as my muscles tightened, my balance steadied, and my arms lifted above my head, I was reminded that my life is fleeting, but so are the worries that plague me. I can let them slide from my skin like beads of sweat. I can stand here in my imperfection and know that I am, and always will be whole. I can find myself again.