MICHELE S. ALGNAY, MA, RP, RGC
Women's Health
June 4, 2016

Mindfulness In and Out of the Mat

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To say that being a mother is a life of multi-tasking and a balancing act, is an understatement. There is just too much going on. When I became a mom of two, I gave up my full-time work as a school counselor in order to focus on raising my toddler son and infant daughter. I would take in a few consultations along the day, but my focus is mostly my children.

 

When my little one was almost three, I realized that I did not like how I was feeling. I was so intentional in fulfilling my motherhood and took precautions on almost everything about my both my children, one area of my life seemed not to cooperating — my physical life. While my children are always full of life and energy, I noticed that I no longer had the energy to give them barely before dinner time. I thought to myself, I simply cannot be this lethargic. I cannot not move. I need to keep up with my growing children, which meant that I had to boost up myself.

 

Never in my life did I become the active type. I tried some home exercise videos, walking and badminton, but I had a hard time sustaining any regimen. And so I searched for something that had to work for me. Then I found yoga… maybe better put, yoga has found me. It was love at first mat! Despite my difficulty as an unfit beginner, I stayed on. After all, it is about progress more than about perfection.

 

My constant practice brought me more than my physical well-being. To begin with, know that I am an organized, sometimes high-strung, and diligent person.   I tend to worry about matters of tomorrow. I like predictability and making things work smoothly. But yoga has changed me in and out. And I stumbled through the practice and continue to learn mindfulness skills along the way, on the mat and in real life. To me, practicing yoga is like learning life hacks to help me connect with who I really am and move through my multi-faceted life in order to be mindful mom to my kids and family. Here are a few things I picked up from my practice:

 

Tune in and listen only to the breath

This is such a challenge! The planner in me would often have thoughts popping up my brain. Thoughts would fly constantly during practice and it was challenging at first to just listen to my breath! But having the breath as a focal point became so important. Why? Because our lives can get too noisy! Our days can get too busy! My kids will talk to me at the same time, while I am talking to someone or to myself. While there are just too much thoughts needing attention, tuning in to the breath allows me to focus on the moment – regardless of what is outside me. This is the first key to being mindful – to start listening, tuning in, to simple just breathe, to be, and connect with the one that gives us life. If we get the inside right, the outside will fall into place!

 

Observe your thoughts

The thoughts in my head would sometimes be about my plans after yoga class, or someone I need to text that morning, or an idea with the project I am working on. Our minds are just too cluttered with a lot of matters that keeps us busy. And funny thing, I heard my yoga teacher saying, “Observe your thoughts. Do not judge or push it away.” Such skill seems simply said but it actually calls for awareness and bit of introspection. Putting it simply, those thoughts are there because they bug us or they have a prime importance to us. Pushing it out may really take effort, as it will just go back. But observing calls us to be more aware of why is it there in the first place, what we feel about it. It is accessing the thoughts in our pre-conscious level for us to be in touch with what is happening and affecting us inside.

 

Progress not perfection.

In all that I do – in and out of the mat, I keep assuring myself: progress not perfection. When the organized side of me gets frustrated with things beyond my control: progress not perfection. On times that my children would not do as what I expected: progress not perfection. We all have our own process, and we all have different progress. In yoga class, I embraced my time to be alone with myself. That I am assured that though I do not get the poses right all the time, it is my effort and progress that matters.

 

My process, my progress, and especially my ‘person’ is not being compared to what the others are accomplishing. The mat is my world – I am free to move, explore, be who I am, adjust myself when needed, and I am allowed to be who am I really. As much as there are ideals, I am not judged based on a single pose. Though there are difficulties, I am encourage to push my potential, yet respect my limitations and own uniqueness. Without fretting, without being high-strung, by letting go of things beyond my control.

 

My work entailed me to analyze life and behavior. I play so many roles – like a mom, wife, a counselor, an educator and a resource person.   I need well planned schedules, and an appropriate time to recharge through rest and yoga. Mindfulness of who am I allowed me to be more aware of matters, and has changed me from being too analytical into less overthinking. In my daily moments, I learned not to ‘overthink’ and simply accept things as is. Mindful living is working for improvements by noting the strengths and using what is there rather than ranting what should have been and are non-existent. It is not an easy route to being the mindful person. But the process of being really connected to my own being is the result of getting into the mindful journey and living a life of worth and wholeness – from the inside out, from the outside in!

 

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Michele or Ichel is a Registered Psychologist and a Registered Guidance Counselor (RGC). Currently, she is a doctorate candidate of Ph.D. in Family Studies at the Miriam College, where she also obtained her M.A. in Family Psychology and Education. She presently balances a more flexible career, and pursuing her expertise in family and relationships by being a counselor, consultant, speaker, writer, and lecturer.  She is a co-author of the breakthrough book, Growing Up Wired: Raising Pinoy Kids in the Digital Age (Anvil Publishing, 2013)

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