There are many ways to learn mindfulness, from workshops and group classes, to home study programs and workbooks. My own path to being more present in my life began in a yoga class.

While I initially began practicing yoga with the hopes of improving my physical strength and flexibility, I gained much more than just a stronger core and more defined shoulders. With encouragement from instructors to “get out of my head and into my body,” I have become increasingly able to overcome self-doubt and push myself past my perceived physical and emotional limitations. With frequent reminders that “the way out is through, not around,” I have begun to replace my tendency to respond to stress by pushing it out of my mind with the empowering act of actually dealing with it. As a result, my own “aha” moment, as far as mindfulness goes, came to me not in a book, but in a yoga class, despite all of my training as a psychologist and my study of mindfulness as a “technique” to help my clients,.

It may have been the verbal reminders offered by my teachers, the quiet relaxing room, the soothing music (or no noise at all), or the presence of others on the same journey that finally helped me to truly experience mindfulness for myself. Or, maybe, it was the fact that I was “stuck” in a room for 75 minutes without my cell phone or computer, leaving me no choice but to focus on my internal experience. Whatever it was, yoga helped me begin attending to the thoughts, emotions, and sensations in my mind and body in a more meaningful way. And here’s the biggie – I’m learning to notice what I’m thinking and feeling without judgment or criticism (a major stipulation of mindfulness).

See below for some of our favorite local places to practice yoga:

Down Dog Yoga, Bethesda and DC

Crunch Fitness, Chevy Chase

Equinox Fitness, Bethesda and DC