Yoga and Mindfulness: Cool Ways to Chill

An interview with Erin Kelly and Cynthia Syd Delaski, Workshop Facilitators

“Yoga and mindfulness can help us
 bring our experiences to life!” 
Quote from Erin Kelly, Mindfulness Facilitator at the Institute

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness.
If you are attentive, you will see it.”
Thich Nhat Hanh,
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Ever find yourself so preoccupied that you miss something really special in the present moment? Some of the things that call for our attention are exciting and fun. Other times, our minds get caught up with things that upset us, worries about the future, hurts from the past. And, our bodies react with stress! Yoga and mindfulness are two related activities that can help us connect with ourselves, be in the present moment, and find both inner calm and wisdom. I recently asked Cynthia and Erin, our summer teachers for Yoga and Mindfulness: Cool Ways to Chill, to share their thoughts about this unique class.

“First of all,” Erin pointed out, “there are not many yoga and mindfulness classes offered for teens. This workshop will be tailored to the needs of teen girls and the types of stress they face.” Erin added, “This will be a fun workshop that enhances our abilities to work together, to show compassion, to experience joy and to move in ways we didn’t know we could.”

Cynthia described what she values most about combining yoga and mindfulness, “Yoga and mindfulness means connecting with our body by doing breath work and asana (yoga pose) practice to then be able to become still and sit in stillness, silence and spaciousness. By doing this, we are able to connect with our wiser selves and get the answers we need from deep within.”

Erin added, “Yoga allows the space to work hard or to work easy each person gets to decide. Yoga asks me to check in with myself and ask, ‘What am I up for today? What is my body telling me it needs right now?’ And yoga asks me to actually listen and respect the answer. In a world where we are told over and over to push ourselves beyond our limits, I find it relieving to be in a space where the wisdom of my heart is what is most important. The best part is, there is no judgment if I decide to take a break and go into child’s pose.”

I asked Erin what challenges her most about yoga. “The challenge for me is to practice not judging myself. The yoga practice translates to the rest of my life. When I’m feeling tired, it becomes ok to take a break. When I’m feeling energized, I can put all of my energy into a task and know that I am giving my all because I’m up for it. Yoga also allows me to sense when I am frustrated or sad or bored. It teaches me that I can get through the feelings without pushing them away or changing anything. It is through yoga and mindfulness practice that I learn how to stick out the hard and enjoy the pleasant. I learn to let go of worry, because moment to moment things change, so nothing unpleasant lasts too long.”

Cynthia discussed the gifts she finds in the practice of mindfulness and yoga, “Taking the time to turn within and approaching ourselves with compassion gives us the opportunity to settle and focus inward instead of outward, which then relieves stress and results in being more calm and focused overall. The yoga practice allows us to stretch and connect with our body, creating more space within to be settled and calm in the face of any stressful situation.”

Cynthia shared one of her favorite yoga quotes. It is a quote from the ancient Yoga Sutras, written by Patanjali. “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence. When the mind has settled we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness. Our essential nature is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind.”

Join Erin and Cynthia this summer (2012)! Practice yoga along with mindful movement, mindful friendship, mindful laughter, and mindful sharing with other teen girls.