A Practical Guide to Yoga and Mindfulness

Have you tried different methods to find peace and calm in your day, but struggle to stay focused? Trust me, I’ve tried it all, and few things have worked. That’s why I’m so excited about this post. 

Yoga and mindfulness have helped me IMMENSELY, and they could be the solution you’re looking for, and they’re probably more doable than you think.  

These ancient practices bring physical, mental, and spiritual benefits to our lives, and with a few tweaks, they can fit into even the busiest of schedules. 

In this post, I will explore the many benefits of yoga and mindfulness, and share some of my favorite yoga poses and simple mindfulness techniques to help you get started.

Imge of a yoga mat and houseplant with text that reads: A practical Guide to yoga and mindfulness

Yoga and Mindfulness for Balance

Mindfulness is something I’ve been fascinated with for years, yet have always struggled with. Rather than being that person who’s calm, present, and insightful; I tend to be scatterbrained, distracted, and constantly bouncing back and forth between the endless tabs open in my mind. 

Maybe that’s why yoga and mindfulness are so attractive to me. When I find moments of peace, presence, and calm, it’s bliss. This is why mindfulness is so important. When we learn how to be mindful, we can access a peaceful mental state at almost anytime. 

Finding a way to cultivate mindfulness allows you to take a break from thinking and simply be and accept feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgment. It’s being able to find a moment of respite from the constant demands and distractions of daily life. 

There are some amazing benefits and easy ways to learn how to be more mindful, and I’ll get to that soon! First, back to yoga.

Yoga is so much more than the 60-minute, insanely hot class offered at your local gym. It’s a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that comes from ancient India. Modern yoga is focused primarily on physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises, and meditation. 

There are many different types of yoga, from classes focused on stretching and relaxing (yin yoga), to faster-paced, flowy workouts (vinyasa yoga), and even some for guided meditation and sleep (yoga nidra). 

In most practices, yoga is designed to calm the mind for meditation, or the savasana, “corpse pose” at the end of the practice or class. Through physical movements, you release tension and calm the nervous system (exactly why it’s a great hobby for relaxation). 

Additionally, learning how to control your breath (pranayama) slows down the mind and creates a sense of stillness. Together, movement and breathing bring the mind and body into a state of relaxation, making it easier to turn off your mind for a few minutes. 

Yoga and Mindfulness Benefits

Sounds like a dream, right? A few minutes of calm and peace? Sign me up.

Not convinced? Here are a few other reasons you might want to consider adding these practices to your weekly routine:

It’s important to note, that just like most other things in life, you get out what you put in. With more intention and consistency, you’ll reap more benefits. 

Why is it so hard for me to slow down?

If I had a penny for every time someone told me, “yoga is boring,” “focusing on my breathing makes me more anxious,” or “my mind wanders when I try to meditate.”… I’d be rich. If you can relate, you’re not alone in these beliefs about yoga and mindfulness.

These are hard practices to learn how to do, especially with our busy, over-stimulating, fast-paced lives. It’s hard and it can be uncomfortable to slow down. Not to mention, there are often other challenges at play.

Common Barriers to Yoga and Mindfulness

  • Limited time – it’s hard to find the time between work, family, and social obligations
  • Cost – classes, apps, and programs can be expensive. Not to mention the skin-tight, trendy yoga wear that we see all over social media. 
  • Physical limitations – feeling insecure about your flexibility or athletic ability and intimidated by not knowing what to do
  • Preconceptions – believing that yoga and mindfulness are too spiritual, exclusive, or impractical 

These challenges are 100% valid, and I get it. Yoga and mindfulness can feel pretty disconnected from the realities of our day-to-day life. But… I know you’re working on your mindset and are likely open to the idea if you’re reading this. 

So, here’s how to actually start (or finally be consistent) with yoga and mindfulness. 

Simple Mindfulness Techniques to Fit into Any Busy Schedule

To start cultivating glimpses of peace and calm right now, try this.

Simply look away from your screen and take a few slow, deep breaths. Focus on where you feel the air and movement in your body. Notice what it feels like to hold a bit longer at bottom of your exhale and the top of your inhale. See? Instant calm.

Here are a few of my other favorite mindfulness practices:

Box Breathing 

This technique is also called “square breathing” or “military breathing.” It was used by the military as a way to manage stress and improve performance in high-pressure situations. 

Put this one in your back pocket for the next time you need to speak publicly, lead a big project, or have a tough conversation. 

To practice box breathing, breathe in for four counts, hold the breath for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and hold that breath for four counts, before starting the cycle over again. 

This is a simple way to regulate breathing, slow the heart rate, and bring a sense of calm.

box breathing. image of a square with directions to hold, exhale, hold, and exhale for four seconds each
Image shared with permission from
Dr. Katie Samman

Progressive Relaxation

This technique is a little more involved, and should ideally be done when you have about 10 minutes to spare. This is an evidence-based practice to manage stress, as well as help with high blood pressure, migraines, and sleep issues

You can follow along here, or try it on your own.

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or ideally, lie down. Close your eyes if that feels comfortable.
  2. Focus on tensing and relaxing different muscle groups, starting with your toes and gradually working your way up to your head.
  3. Hold the tension in each muscle group for 10-15 seconds before releasing and focusing on how it feels when you release the tension. 
  4. Repeat the process for each muscle group, paying attention to the physical sensations in your body.
  5. Allow yourself to sit for a minute or two after to enjoy the feeling of your body laying completely relaxed (or take a quick nap). Slowly get up and return to this practice as often as needed. 

Mindful Walking

I’ll be honest, this is the least of my favorite mindfulness practices. My walks are more mind-full because between walking two energetic pups and listening to an audiobook, I’m not the most present. But, if you like walking, this could be perfect for you!

Mindful walking is a form of meditation where you bring your full attention to the experience of walking. In a safe and quiet environment, pay attention to what it feels like as your feet hit the ground, your legs move, your breath, and the environment around you. 

This practice allows you to be fully present at the moment, calm your mind, and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. 

Gratitude Practice

Expressing gratitude is a mindfulness technique that involves focusing on and appreciating the good things in your life. This could involve:

  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Taking a moment to acknowledge and appreciate something
  • Spending a minute reflecting on things you’re thankful for
  • Regular three good things/what went well journaling

This practice can be customized to what works best for you. It’s a simple way to shift focus from stress to the positives in life. This is a good activity when you need a change in perspective or a mood boost. 

Manageable Yoga Techniques to Feel Better, Inside and Out

If you’d rather get moving instead of sitting still to practice mindfulness,  try yoga. It doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) involve floating your legs above your head upside down or stretching into the splits. Instead, here are some good places to start:

Chair Yoga

This is a type of yoga that can be done right from a chair or at your desk! It’s a great option when you’re short on time, need a mid-day stretch, or have limited mobility or an injury. You can do a few poses or a series of gentle stretches and twists. 

Chair yoga can be just as effective as yoga on a mat to relieve stress, increase flexibility, and improve posture. 

Here’s a good video to try: Yoga at Your Desk – Yoga with Adriene 

Floor Yoga Poses

Depending on what you’re struggling with or feeling at the moment, there are floor yoga poses that can help with common issues. Different poses target specific areas of the body and can be a quick way to reduce stress and feel more comfortable. 

You don’t need to do a complete flow or a single sun salutation to reap the benefits of yoga. Here are a few examples:

three sets of yoga poses with five poses each. yoga for anxiety: childs pose, downward dog, warrior 2, tree pose, and legs up the wall. yoga for a headache: cat/cow, cobra, seated neck rolls, seated spinal twist, forward bend. yoga for a stressed stomach: butterfly, pigeon, garland pose, wide leg forward bend, and happy baby.

Gentle Yoga

This is another option that is perfect for stress relief and relaxation. When I’m having one of those days, the stress and tension can melt away in minutes on my yoga mat, or even on the living room rug when it’s really one of those days. 

This type of yoga involves slow, gentle movements and deep breathing which can help to calm the mind and reduce anxiety. This is great if you’re new to yoga, don’t want to break a sweat, or have physical limitations. 

Try one of these 10-minute flows:

Incorporating Mindfulness and Yoga into Your Routines

I get it, incorporating mindfulness into a busy lifestyle can seem like a daunting task. It may even feel like one more thing to add to your never-ending to-do list. 

However, with a little effort and the right approach, it’s absolutely possible to make these practices a part of your daily routine. 

Tips to get started with Yoga and Mindfulness:

  • Start small. Set a realistic and achievable goal, like five minutes a day. Gradually increase how long or how often you practice as you get more comfortable with it. 
  • Find a community. Joining a group or local studio can be a good way to connect with others who are already interested in mindfulness and yoga. This can help to hold you accountable, stay motivated, and be supported.
  • Make it a priority. Try to tack it on to (or replace) existing morning and evening routines. For example, rather than doom-scrolling before bed, try a quick mindfulness practice. 
  • Personalize your practice. Everyone’s needs are different, and it’s important to find something that works for you. Without judgment or pressure, experiment with different techniques to find what feels right for you. 

Wrapping it Up

Yoga and mindfulness are not just for the elite, but truly for anyone looking to find a moment of calm from the chaos of daily life. These practices have endless benefits, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving physical health. 

While the thought of slowing down and focusing on breathing and movement can be intimidating, there are many simple mindfulness techniques that work, no matter how busy your life (and mind) might be. 

So, why not give it a try and see the positive impact it can have on your life? Let me know which one you’ll try first!

Image of a yoga class with text: a practical guide to yoga and mindfulness. breath, stretch, and find inner peace

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