Yoga to Complement Mindfulness Meditation


This morning, I really enjoyed spending an hour with the Morehead-Cain Scholars at the University of North Carolina. They were participating in a workshop on mindful leadership led by the sweet crew at Golden Bristle, learning tools for better self-awareness, awareness of others, and focus.

The goal of yoga asana–the physical practice of the poses–is to prepare the body to sit for meditation. To that end, an asana practice builds core strength and hip flexibility, so that the practitioner can sit with more physical comfort. We went through a few brief standing sequences that can be done without a mat or special equipment, making them office- or library-friendly—the first two are good preparations to do before you sit. The last is yoga you can do in bed!

Photo by Matt Thieleman
Photo by Matt Thieleman

Standing Six Moves of the Spine, with Chair Pose

Some of these poses are depicted in this piece I wrote for Yoga Journal. You can hold the poses in this sequence for several breaths (squirming is encouraged!) or pulse with the breath cues:

  • Stand in mountain pose, finding an easy, neutral position.
  • Inhale arms overhead
  • Exhale to a side bend
  • Inhale arms overhead
  • Exhale, side bend other direction
  • Inhale arms overhead
  • Exhale arms behind you
  • Inhale arms forward
  • Exhale and sit to chair pose
  • Inhale arms in front
  • Exhale to a twist
  • Inhale arms in front
  • Exhale to a twist
  • Inhale arms in front
  • Exhale hands to thighs
  • Inhale to a light backbend (standing cow)
  • Exhale to round your back (standing cat)
  • Inhale to standing
  • Exhale to arrive back at mountain pose

Standing Balance Poses

These appear in this podcast episode, with variations in The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga and Everyday Yoga. Hold each of the balance poses for 10–15 breaths.

  • Stand in mountain pose
  • Shift the weight to your right leg and bend your left knee, reaching your hand for your left foot. Either stay in the quad stretch or move to dancer pose.
  • Cross your left ankle above your right knee for figure 4. Sit your hips down and back. Use your arms for balance or interlace your fingers behind your back to add a chest stretch.
  • Step your left foot forward and angle your right heel in slightly. Fold forward for pyramid.
  • Stand in mountain pose and observe how you feel before changing sides

Reclining Twists

These appear in this podcast episode, in this class at YogaVibes, and in The Athlete’s Pocket Guide to Yoga and Everyday Yoga. Hold each of these twists for 15–25 breaths.

  • Lying on your back, bend your knees and step your feet wider than shoulder distance apart
  • Drop both knees to the right; optionally cross your right ankle over your left knee and lift your left arm alongside your head
  • Lift your knees, step your left foot by your tailbone, and cross your right knee tightly over your left knee. Press into your left foot, lift your pelvis, and swing it a few inches to the right. Drop your knees to the left.
  • Spend a few breaths in a neutral position before changing sides
  • Follow with reclining cobbler: take the soles of your feet together and let your knees drop wide