You know the feeling that you get from an excellent yoga class or a spa treatment? When your body feels incredibly good—so relaxed that it has an otherworldly sensation to it? That is the experience I had while taking a Mindful Yoga class with Ranch guest presenter, Ann-Marie Ahye. Her class was so soothing that I absolutely had to learn more about her philosophy on mindfulness, yoga, and how to recreate the ultra-serene state of bliss I achieved on the mat.
G: I LOVED your yoga class. Before I ask you about Mindful Yoga, I would like to learn about how you started teaching at Rancho La Puerta.
A-M: I’ve been presenting at The Ranch since 2007. One of my students in Toronto had been a guest a number of times, and she had come back from a visit all excited. She told me, “You would love it there and they would love you!” Two years after she said that to me, her words still resonated with me. I contacted Phyllis Pilgrim, who coordinates the yoga program. We had a conversation, I shared my Mindful Yoga material with her, and she invited me to teach. It was a magical connection.
G: Why is The Ranch a good place to practice Mindful Yoga?
A-M: The intention of why and how The Ranch was created is in alignment with this kind of practice. Additionally, The Ranch environment is supportive of an inner practice.
G: How would you describe the Mindful Yoga you teach?
A-M: It’s predominantly Yin inspired in order to rebalance the Yang excess of our society, which keeps us in a cycle of distress. Yin Yoga encourages a shift in physical, mental and emotional tone; relaxing muscles and promoting space and inner calm. Cultivating stillness and self-awareness nurtures an inner attunement that then informs and enhances the active, Yang poses.
G: Your Mindful Yoga class left me in a blissful state. I want to recreate that feeling in my home practice. What are your five top tips for mindfulness on the mat?
A-M: Thank you! Here are my top tips for a Mindful Yoga practice:
1. Set a Conscious Intention to Turn Inward
Start with a conscious intent to let go of your involvement with the external world and your outer life. It’s important to instill a willingness to establish an inner connection and to rest within. When you set such an intention then aligning with your breath can begin to draw you inward. Without such conscious intention, yoga becomes diluted.
2. Awaken “Embodied Presence”
In Mindful Yoga, you shift gears from thinking and doing to feeling and being. Yoga is the yoking of your body, breath, and awareness. It’s not just a physical posture. When you enter into the direct experience of sensations, you can begin to open into a clear presence, an embodied presence.
A visualization that can help you engage is to close your eyes and envision the space in the center of your head. This space is where you are potentially free of conditioning and other limits. When you imagine that you are in the center of your head, you can be clear, present, spacious, and neutral. Try this visualization when you’re on the mat.
3. Explore Kindness
Look to befriend yourself within each pose both physically and emotionally. The habit of aggression is strong. We don’t see the aggression we impose on ourselves, by saying and believing things like, “I should, I must, I have to.” Pressuring yourself in any way is self-inflicted aggression and this is the source of much of our suffering.
When you come into a pose using an aggressive muscular tone, everything may look ok on the outside, but on the inside, you’re perpetuating aggression. And that aggression informs your choices, actions, behaviors, moods, attitudes – all of your experiences. In Mindful Yoga, it’s important to check in with your body, soften, and relax out of any reactive tendencies you notice.
4. Refocus Often
We are easily distracted by our conditioning. I could begin my Mindful Yoga practice with a good intention to really tune into my inner body, but if my default is typically combative, I’d go back to that habit within five minutes. If you need to refocus and restart, time and time again, do so. Keep checking in with yourself to ensure your approach to your practice is attentive and supportive, rather than one that is imposing and abrasive.
5. Cultivate a Genuine Commitment
Learn to access strength through stillness, inner awareness, and quiet perseverance. Without conscientiousness and a commitment, we may practice Mindful Yoga as a fad. We may only do it for a month and feel good and talk about it. A truly Mindful Yoga is a lifelong commitment.
Mindful Yoga Beyond the Mat
A-M: The principles I shared about Mindful Yoga can transform life and living. For example, if you find that you go about your daily life with a sense of urgency, anxiety, or fearfulness, you will most likely do your yoga practice with the same energy, unless you consciously choose to change that. The goal is to go about the day with the enhanced awareness that you cultivated on your mat.
G: Thank you so much for these excellent tips for starting a Mindful Yoga practice! I can’t wait to begin to apply them to my own life — both on and off the mat.
A-M: My pleasure!
Ann-Marie Ahye teaches Mindful Yoga and Meditation in Toronto, Canada and hosts retreats in the Caribbean and North America. She is currently a Psychotherapist Intern. Visit her website, energeticpresence.com for more information.
Do you love yoga? The Ranch offers daily yoga classes such as Yoga Fundamentals, Yoga II, Yoga Sculpt, and Restorative Yoga. You will be guided by expert instructors with a wide range of teaching styles including, Iygenar, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa. Also, check out our events calendar to find themed yoga weeks such as Yoga and Writing, Meditation and Healing Yoga, and Prime of Life Yoga.