Mindfullness today is overloaded with the most positive health claims in the world. But what exactly is it all this about? Belgian Yogi Thaïsa Haerts, who lives in a yoga community in the country tells us more about her yogic lifestyle.
Yoga is a philosophy that includes mindfulness, positive thinking and healthy nutrition. Mindfulness is living with full attention. It ensures that you stop worrying, start working on yourself and eventually feel better about yourself.
Mindfulness has its origins in the buddhist philosophy, and is quickly making its way to the rest of the world. You start being more aware, and this would ultimately make you a happier person.
But what exactly is mindfulness? We ask Yogi Thaïsa Haerts, who moved to Thailand and is fully devoted the yogic lifestyle. “Most people live in their heads all the time – in their thoughts. The vast majority of these thoughts are about the future: “I have to visit my mother tomorrow”, “The task has to be finished by next week”, “I will clean up later, and then make those phone calls”. Mindfulness allows you to focus your attention on the present. You let go of all thoughts for ‘later’ or ‘tomorrow’ for a while, and focus on what you are doing now.”
Benefits of Mindfulness
– Mindfulness reduces stress
– Mindfulness increases productivity
– Mindfulness saves you time
– Mindfullness makes you enjoy life more, it makes you feel happier
– Through mindfulness you learn to recognize something ‘beautiful’ in every situation
– Mindfulness teaches you to see and enjoy the little things
Mindfulness basically is a very accessible form of meditation. By regularly being aware of the ‘now’ you can learn mindfulness. And don’t forget: Practice makes perfect.
1. Sit quietly and take a few deep breaths in and out.
2. Relax your shoulders.
3. Focus on your breathing for a few minutes.
4. Then be aware of everything that is happening around you right now.
5. Let thoughts pass quietly and pay no attention to them.
6. Hear the sounds around you, feel the chair under your bum, smell the room’s scent.
7. Notice how you become more in the moment, and how the focus on the ‘now’ gives you more silence in your head.
Tip: Many people find mindfulness a good technique, but forget that they have to apply mindfulness in their daily life. You can solve this by, for example, putting a mindfulness stone in your pocket. Whenever you feel this pebble, you remind yourself that you want to enjoy the moment.
“Anyone can learn mindfulness. The only thing that you have to do is open yourself to it. There is a trickier aspect to it: don’t judge,” says yogi Thaïsa. “When you are in mindfulness mode, it’s important that you perceive everything as it is, and try not to judge it. This also takes practice.”
But meditating alone is not enough to become a true mindfull person. “Of course you also have to watch your diet.” Says Thaïsa. “I’ve been trying to eat only things that will benefit my body for the past couple of years.”
Thaïsa also indicates that a vegan lifestyle goes hand in hand with the yogic lifestyle. “It’s kind of part of it. One goes hand in hand with the other. I eat 80% raw food and 20% vegan hot meals. On the island where I live, that’s quite normal. Everyone here eats a lot of fruits, vegetables and nuts.”
A day in the life
8am shower 8am raw food breakfast 9am breathing exercises 10am meditation 11am view lectures 12am raw food meal 1pm teaching mindfullness 5pm evening mindfullnes 6pm hot vegan meal 7pm meditation 8pm reading about mindfullness
Thaïsa combines the exercises and meditation with Ayerveda. Ayurvedic yoga is based on Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine. Three forces, or doshas, form the basis: vata, pitta and kapha. All three are present in everyone, including in nature.
However, the ratio differs per person and also per day and season. Your unique proportion determines your Ayurvedic body & mind type, your constitution. Often your constitution is a combination of two doshas, for example vata-kapha. It means that vata and kapha are more present than pitta.
Every dosha has positive and negative qualities that occur when you are out of balance. Your dosha shows what your strengths and weaknesses are, both physically and mentally. When the doshas are in balance, you function best. If they are out of balance, you will get complaints. The type of complaints and what you are sensitive to, depends on your constitution.
Ayurveda has a holistic approach and focuses in the first instance on your diet, daily rhythm and movement pattern. So you can use yoga to bring yourself back into balance. In addition, Ayurvedic herbal preparations are used, relaxing massages and colonics to cleanse the body.
Illness is a sign that your doshas are seriously out of balance– Thaïsa Haerts
“I know my Ayerveda type and because of that I am much more conscious of myself. I believe that illness is a sign that your doshas are seriously out of balance. By bringing your doshas back into balance, you can heal.” The Ayurvedic approach is different from regular medicin. Ayurveda uses herbs and foods, rather than with pills and syrups. “Can you cure all ailments with herbs? I doubt that,” but it seems like a step in the right direction.
“Meditation is safe because it has no side effects at all.” This statement is not correct according to psychologist Arnold Lazarus. “Sitting quietly on a pillow and listening to your breathing seems completely harmless and soothing, but often causes the production of the stress hormone cortisol.”
“Mindfullness is good for everyone.” This claim has never emerged from scientific research. Psychologist Arnold Lazarus puts it this way: “What nourishes you can actually harm another person.” Based on individual characteristics, there is a growing realization that meditation affects everyone differently. It is therefore important to keep your finger on the pulse if you decide to meditate, and to pay close attention to what the effects are for you.
“Mindfullness makes me a better person.” Although much meditation today focuses on compassion, there is no clear clinical evidence that you do indeed develop more compassion when you meditate. “Many people expect meditation to do them good beforehand, and their positive findings are strongly colored by the lack of objectivity: they feel better afterwards because they simply expected to feel better,” Lazarus says.
“Mindfullness is more effective than therapy for personal growth.” This statement, according to Lazarus, is wrong. “Personal therapy with a psychologist or coach, which focuses on gaining insight into your thoughts and behavior, can therefore be many times more effective than the mindfulness group training.”
“Mindfullness will make me happy forever.” Meditating offers no scientific guarantee of everlasting happiness. The experience of meditation is like life itself: sometimes good, sometimes bad. Lazarus clarifies: “With meditation you observe all thoughts that come by, both the pleasant and the negative thoughts. You do not judge or go along with these thoughts. You will find that all those thoughts will pass by themselves if you do not put energy into them and pay attention to them. In this way you create a state of sober watching, of inner peace, of focus and overview. But you will always keep human feelings and emotions, only you will find that with the help of mindfulness you no longer make a drama of it.”
The yogic lifestyle is not for everyone. Each individual must determine for themselves whether his/her persona fits the lifestyle. You can also determine the extent to which you apply the lifestyle yourself.