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Negative Thoughts During Yoga

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Hi Everyone, 

I am somewhat new to yoga. I have had my good days and my bad days while at yoga. Some days, I completely forget about the outside world and even everyone in the class and just focus on being present throughout the practice. However, lately I have been having a very difficult time staying focused through an entire class and end up wishing the class would end early. I can't seem to break out of this negative thought pattern.

For example. Bending over in a pose and noticing my stomach and small little rolls that form when bending over. From there my mind starts to wander about what I've been eating and how I need to be better about eating healthy (although I am a pretty healthy person). There are times when I can focus back on the mat, however, the next time we bend over the thought process spirals again. I feel like I end up leaving more stressed than when I came to practice. I've noticed this typically happens after a weekend where I went out and probably had a few too many drinks and stayed out a little too late. I don't want to give up going and having a good time with friends... But at the same time I want to continue to see the progression with my yoga practice.

Any advice on how to work on this? 

Thanks

 

YogaByCandace likes this

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Return to your breath. Listen to the rhythmic, oceanic sound, especially during "ujaya" breathing. Take at least four seconds on the inhales (during passive poses, like resting in downward dog) and try to make the exhale even longer. If you concentrate on breathing you won't focus on "other stuff"  

The meditation that instructors lead at the beginning and end of the class .... are skills to train you in clearing your mind. You can use these skills any time you wish.

yogafire and YogaByCandace like this

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If external environment is prompting some negative thoughts, can you close your eyes in the pose and turn inwards to focus on the feeling? E.g. when you folded over, instead of looking at your stomach, close your eyes and concentrate on pushing your foot down to the ground, bending from your hips, or whatever cues your teacher is saying at the time. 

One of my teachers cues us to notice whatever "internal dialogue is going on" and exhale it out to let it go.  Wandering thoughts always happen - don't judge yourself for it and focus on inhaling for 4 seconds and exhaling for 6 seconds (a little longer).  Or focus on an alignment cue - e.g. in warrior 2, is your back foot's outer arch pushing down into the ground? Can you make your stance longer and go deeper, so you have to engage your muscles?  In that case, those endurance parts of the practice make me focus and take my mind off whatever else was going on before.  Or try a different class to mix it up - sometimes ones that play music might help, or, a hatha style class where the teacher is constantly giving verbal alignment cues can give you a lot to listen to.  I go to Hatha classes a lot now, but in the beginning I found music playing classes helped me stop looking at the clock and wanting to leave because I just let myself enjoy the music in the background.

YogaByCandace likes this

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This is one of my issues with my disordered eating that I work on. One of the things my therapist and I have developed, especially as she does yoga as well, is to switch my pose to something more body friendly and one of strength (say, one of the Warrior poses or Tree) and then bring myself back to my intention, saying it out loud. It can be just under my breath, whispering it or saying it with intention as I practice at home. It breaks the cycle of thought and brings me back to why I am doing what I am doing - to be at peace with my body. I have the tendency to fixate, so by physically taking myself out, I break the fixation.

Hopefully that helps a little.

YogaByCandace and LissaYyoga like this

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Those are all great tips listed above, and it's so awesome that you are reaching out for suggestions, rather than giving up!  The mental side of yoga is every bit as important to grow in as the physical, so maybe for you, this is your yoga growth journey, for now.  

Negative thoughts are normal to have, any time, any place.  Thoughts are the soundtrack of our brain.  When they are positive, they can be helpful, but negative ones, not so much...  In yoga we notice our thoughts so much more because we are tuned inward and have turned off all of the usual distractions of life.  So, partly you might just be noticing your thoughts more.  It's totally OK to have negative thoughts in yoga or anytime, but it's what you choose to do with those thoughts that counts.  Simply notice them, and let them go.  No judgement.  You can choose to refocus on something else, like your breath as Larry mentioned, or to an intention you may have set for yourself at the beginning of class.  If you haven't gotten used to setting an intention, that might help a lot.  For example, you might start each class with the mantra, "I am present," and return to this statement whenever you find your mind wandering.  Choose to be present to what is happening with your body, your breath, in the here and now of the class and let go of any judgement of what may have happened before or what might happen later.  "I am here, and I am good enough" is another great intention/mantra to try.  I love the quote by Lau Tzo: "Let things flow naturally forward in whatever direction they like."  

Sitting with the discomfort, whether it's physical or mental, is where we grow in yoga and in life :15:

 

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