Your mind is racing. You have that frantic, anxiety-fueled feeling that you’re way behind on life’s never-ending to-do list, and that if you stop—even just for a second—you’re wasting valuable time.
You barely manage to get yourself to yoga class, but you do. But even now—eyes closed and trying to focus on your breath—you can’t stop your overactive brain from badgering you with the things you need to remember, the ways you’ve failed today, and the moments where you could have done better.
It’s okay. It happens to the best of yogis. You’re not alone.
The overactive mind is a common reaction to anxiety and stress, and this makes it almost impossible to be comfortable in the present moment. We’re worried about what we’re going to make for dinner, the project we have to finish for work, how we should have gone for a walk instead of watching TV on that gorgeous day last week, and so many other things that belong outside of the present, beyond the now.
Luckily, yoga is the perfect activity to get your seven chakras in balance and your mind, body, and spirit grounded in the here and now. So while you’re in class, brain spinning out of control, try these tips for calming your mind and settling into your practice.
Give yourself a little credit.
First things first, show yourself some love. Despite your brain reminding you of all the things you “should” be doing instead of sitting on your yoga mat, you chose to invest in a healthy, grounding activity. You’re paying attention to what you really need, which is a moment to turn inward. For that, give your shoulder a much-earned pat.
You have permission to turn off—just for an hour.
When you have a million things racing through your mind, you might feel guilty for taking this time to practice, even if it is to focus on your spiritual, physical, and mental health. Remind yourself that it’s only for this short period of time. This time is for you—you’ve gone through the effort of putting on your yoga clothes, getting to class, and laying down your mat. You’ve earned this short window of peace in the day.
Name the thought.
When those nagging reminders start popping into your head at a rapid rate, the more power you give them, the more they’ll materialize. So name them. Don’t try to push them away forcefully—that won’t get you anywhere. Identify them clearly as “thoughts.” It sounds simple, but acknowledging—without judgment—that your brain is peppering you with thoughts, worries, and expectations will take you a long way.
Now that you’ve identified your thoughts, imagine them falling away. Different images resonate for different people, and it can be fun to play around with what works for you. Maybe a wave washes up onto a shore and carries your thoughts out to sea as the water recedes. Perhaps your thoughts are all written down on a piece of paper, which gets crumpled up and tossed in the garbage can. Try something that connects with you, and visualize your thoughts slowly disappearing.
Breathe deeply. Repeat.
Finally, the simplest tactic is one you’ve probably heard your yoga teacher say in class: focus on your breath. It may seem obvious, but it’s incredible how often we forget to inhale and completely exhale during the day. Breathe into your nostrils, hold it, then release your breath in an exhale that lasts longer than your inhale. Focus on that strategy, and slowly your racing mind will fall into the flow of your breath and your body as you move through various poses.
Hopefully, these strategies help you calm your mind during yoga class. But the most important thing to remember is this: you can’t force your brain to turn off, so don’t try. Instead, treat yourself—that rapidly moving brain included—with love and self-compassion. By practicing these tips, you’ll start to build a toolbox of strategies that relax your mind and bring you back into the present moment—during class and, more importantly, your everyday life.