While yoga has many benefits for the body and physical health, calming and quieting the mind is one of the most important things yoga has to offer. Bringing the mind to a meditative state is beneficial both on its own and while practicing yoga poses. It is this uniting of the mind with the body that makes yoga unique. Here are three specific yoga poses for quieting the mind. They can be practiced alone just for that purpose or as needed during a yoga sequence to center the awareness.
Though this yoga asana, also known as tree pose, is practiced in many beginning classes, its importance should not be underestimated. It strengthens the legs, opens the hips and improves balance. One leg turns out to the side and the foot is brought to the inside of the other leg. The palms are joined together in front of the chest. If possible, the arms then stretch up toward the sky. In order to successfully balance in this pose, the mind must be present and aware. Standing on one leg, especially with the arms extended overhead, requires mental focus. The mind must let go of external distractions.
Intense westward facing stretch is the literal translation of paschimottanasana, but it is often simply called seated forward bend. Sitting on the floor, the legs are stretched straight forward; the upper body folds deeply at the hips so that the hands can hold the feet. As the upper body and head bow forward, the mind’s attention naturally starts to move inward. Looking down quiets the eyes and the mind. To stay longer and more comfortably in this pose, either fold blankets on the legs or use a stool that straddles the legs as a support to rest the forehead.
Most people know this as legs up the wall pose. Lying on the floor, the legs are extended up a wall. It is helpful to have a couple of folded blankets under the hips and lower part of the spine. The arms rest to either side. The abdomen softens and relaxes so that the breath can begin to relax. With a quiet, relaxed breath, the mind also becomes quiet. Practicing this pose, the mind will often wander. Attempt to keep awareness within, following the movements of the breath. This pose is similar to savasana and is one of the most relaxing yoga poses.
Practice these three asanas as a short sequence and observe the state of your mind when finished. You will find that the body and mind have become quiet and calm, focused and alert; the self has been nourished and renewed.