Using Yoga to Stretch the Mind

It’s nice to be strong and flexible, but it’s more important to try, with practice, to see yourself more clearly.

Nuno Silva/500PX Prime

There are no flashy outfits or fancy postures on display at my Tuesday morning yoga class. No handstanding selfies being posted to Instagram. Just a handful of curious students, of all shapes and ability levels, gathered around a thoughtful teacher in a tiny, backyard studio.

Our teacher guides us through a few minutes of chanting and recreation, a series of asanas (postures) and a lengthy Savasana (also called Corpse Pose or deep relaxation), before we sit for meditation. During the active part of class, we move with precision and quiet concentration. Occasionally, we discuss how the poses affect us—one woman notices that a gentle leg stretch has released tension in her hips. Another finds that a long stay in Downward-facing Dog Pose has soothed her anxiety. I discover that a simple visualization practice—imagining the exhale expanding from the base of my skull around the sides of my head toward my temples, the inhale traveling from my forehead into the center of my head—instantly quiets my mind.

The class is demanding, but not in the way of the strong and sweaty vinyasa classes I sometimes enjoy. The challenge here is to refine our awareness, to focus our minds, and to soften…

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Black woman outdoors in nature with mountains and blue sky background, taking a deep breath with her eyes closed and a peaceful expression.
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About the author

Kaitlin Quistgaard

Kaitlin Quistgaard is an editor at large for Mindful. She was previously editor-in-chief of Yoga Journal and senior editor at Salon and at Wired News. She lives with her husband and her daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she continues to write about yoga and meditation and, not surprisingly, works at a startup.