Expert's view: How to practice mindfulness and improve your life

Eman Youssef, Sunday 1 Nov 2020

Laila Farouk discusses mindfulness as a form of yoga practice that can help those who suffer from insomnia and stress, thus improving physical and mental health.

Laila Farouk

"Mindfulness is awareness, being present at the moment, conscious and focused on something." said Laila Farouk, the distinguished Yoga teacher and expert, adding that mindfulness is a state of mind focused on acceptance and the ability of being here and now.

Farouk assured that mindfulness is a practice that can help those who suffer from insomnia and stress. It also helps in improving the general state of physical and mental health.

 She also added that mindfulness is among the different exercises and practices that yoga has. Yoga is not just a workout; you can find full classes that focus on breathing techniques and mindfulness.

Yoga allows you to move your body in so many different ways that allow you to work on strengthening your muscles while gaining flexibility and joint mobility. Additionally, yoga works on the deep muscles where it helps in gaining core strength, according to Farouk.

Farouk emphasized that unlike other fitness workouts, we focus on the breathing and connecting the breath with the movement gracefully through mindfulness and yoga, which allows you to connect with your body, mind, and soul. Most of the challenging postures require mental strength and abilities more than muscles, so it depends on each person individually. Farouk’s classes target everyone, and vary from flexibility to strength.

"It will always be the consistency of practice that will advance any practitioner. There are so many different styles that suit everyone. You can practice at home, on your couch, on your desk chair." Farouk says.

"First, I try to understand the jobs of yoga lovers, their day to day activities, in order to be able to recommend the most suitable style for them, along with their goals and fitness preferences." She said.

"As a lot of people have misconceptions about some practices such as mindfulness and yoga. Hence, I try as much as I can to explain what yoga is about and how it can help them reach their goals and improve their physical and mental health, and allow them to enjoy mindfulness, which allows you to be aware of the moment." Farouk says.

She also added that yoga basically means union, and it is a lifestyle that covers steps all the way from our behaviour, to physical exercise, breathing, and mindfulness.

"The base of the practice of most yoga styles is the sun salutation, which is a sequence of postures put together. Sun salutations have many benefits, one of which is to improve blood circulation." Farouk explained, adding that generally moving and exercising are great to flush toxins and maintain healthier skin and body.

Mindfulness yoga helps with stress relief, anxiety, and concentration. "You can always make it your own, following your own pace. You can challenge your body every day, or you can choose to follow simple practices just to move and get energised," she said.

According to Farouk, yoga can be practiced daily. You can practice for one minute or two hours; it is a habit more than a planned exercise. "As yoga has different styles, you can find very easy, slow classes where you just relax, all the way to tough, challenging classes where you sweat," she said, emphasizing that she prefers to practice first thing in the morning, and sometimes before going to bed.

"I always ask people to listen to their bodies, notice how they feel, and safely move out of the comfort zone." Farouk recommended, adding that results take time, consistency, and practice.

She advises not to rush, because it is considered a journey, so enjoy it and connect more with yourself, and you will get there. Keep trying, have an open mind, and do not compare or judge.

She also highlighted the importance of choosing the right coach with the right kind of energy, then check whether the teacher is focused on the students, giving them attention, and correcting their alignment.

Farouk read about, and practiced yoga for so many years by attending classes of different styles, following yoga teachers online, and practicing at home; then she went to Bali and spent one month to train to become a certified teacher.

During training she learned philosophy, anatomy and practiced yoga daily so that she may pass an exam to get the certificate and be able to teach around the world.

"I got certified in March 2019 and have been teaching yoga since then. I spent around a year researching certified yoga schools to be able to land on the best school for me to get my certification." she says.

Farouk emphasises that we need to release what no longer serves us, be honest with ourselves, and love ourselves enough to improve our lives.

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