Level Up Your Yoga with Awareness

By  Sally Shuey

Remember the vibe of 2021? It was weird to have our routines so quickly disrupted in 2020 and have that disorientation still with us in the new year. In that time I thought to myself that in order to stay sane I’d need to build new habits that met the moment of what we were experiencing. So on January 4, 2021 I set an intention to have a daily meditation practice that spanned a year. I was fortunate enough to have the time, health and resources to pursue this, and for that I’m deeply grateful. What I didn’t know then was how this would level up my yoga!

Fast forward to 2023 and daily meditation is still with me – way beyond that first year. I have a much-loved regular yoga practice going on for decades now, and along the way to becoming a yoga teacher learned mindfulness and breathwork techniques. Layering on meditation was the icing on the wellness cake, so to speak. 🙂

What makes this such a powerful mix is how all these practices encourage us to tap into our awareness so we can be truly present in the moment. Put in practical terms, breath therapist Margaret Townsend says, “Feel what you feel.” Similarly, meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein says, “Sit, and know that you’re sitting.” These simple cues become deeply profound when you genuinely bring your awareness to the party.

How can this contribute to your personal practice? You can use awareness to bring yoga poses out of your head and into your body. Here’s one example using Warrior 2:

Up in your head … Are my arms straight? Is my forward leg bending towards 90 degrees? Is my bent knee tracking over my foot, is my back foot at an angle? Am I softly gazing over the fingers of my forward hand? Are my hip points on the same plane?

There’s nothing wrong with understanding the fundamental architecture of a pose – it’s how we learn. Once you get that down, your experience of the pose can go to a new level, such as:

Embodied awareness … How am I feeling in this pose? What is my sense of my body in this space? What are the sensations of my feet connecting with the earth? My muscles in relationship to one another? Where do I feel the stretch? How does deepening the breath affect all these things?

The real trick is, as you ask yourselves these things to take the time and space to actually feel rather than think about how they feel.