Where does your attention go when you’re on the yoga mat?
Are you day-dreaming? Do you mentally write lists of things to do? Do find yourself judging your body, wishing it felt differently? Do you feel annoyed / fidgety / frustrated if your teacher is inviting you to hold the pose longer than you might like to? Or are you mindfully noticing what’s going on for your body, breath mind and emotions as you move through and hold the poses?
Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above?!
Chances are this reflects what’s happening in your mind throughout your day. Flitting around between the past and future. Worrying. Judging. Day-dreaming.
Noticing what’s going on for us on the mat is a great way to hold a mirror up to our mind and emotions. And what we learn on the mat we can take forward to help us find a greater sense of equanimity in everyday life as we retrain our mind to live in the present moment.
There’s a great phrase, used a lot in yoga: “where attention goes your energy flows”.
Where we place our focus – intentionally or not – is where we invest our precious energy. If you feel tired a lot it’s a sign your energy is being scattered all over the place or it’s focusing on things which don’t nourish you.
So let’s learn to pay attention.
Start with your thumb
Try this simple exercise.
Look at your right thumb. Lift it up before your eyes. Place all of your attention on it. Notice the colour, the contours. Notice how your thumb feels – temperature, sensations. Breathe in, and with the out-breath focus your attention even more.
Feel that you are sending energy to the thumb with each out-breath.
Close your eyes and continue to send attention and energy to the thumb with each out-breath. Breathe in energy, exhale it into your thumb.
How does your thumb feel now? Maybe a little warmer? Tingly? Maybe strangely larger?
That’s energy flowing where your attention is going in action!
Harness your life force
In yogic terms, that’s you harnessing Prana and focusing it somewhere specific.
In yoga, Prana is the life force. It’s in the air we breathe. It’s in the food and drink we put into our bodies. It comes from the sun and is the essence of all life and movement. It flows through us.
So, when we focus our attention we can allow this life force to flow and focus where we need it to.
When our mind is jumping from one place to the next, we’re scattering our energy – literally draining our life force.
When we focus our mind, we draw together our energy into a laser beam of clarity and mindfulness. Transformational stuff.
Focus on your body and breath
When you’re practising yoga on your mat, use this power of attention.
If you’re feeling your hamstrings are tight in a forward fold, place your attention on inviting the hamstrings to release.
If your hips and lower back feel stiff in Butterfly pose, breathe in and on the out-breath direct your focus to those areas and ask them to soften.
If your core feels weak in Tiger or Boat, harness your attention to focus on engaging and strengthening the lower abdominal muscles and lower back.
You can take this practice off the mat too.
If there’s an area of your body which you feel needs some TLC, close your eyes, breathe in Prana and on the out-breath direct it to the muscles / joint / organs / whichever area of your body needs it. Send healing awareness and energy.
Direct your attention daily with mindfulness
And if you feel at the mercy of your busy mind, know that it IS possible to change your thoughts if you wish.
Practice mindful awareness. First, start a new habit of noticing the sensations of your breath – as it flows in and flows out. Then begin to notice your emotions – their subtle shifts, ebbing and flowing throughout the day.
Then begin to notice the thoughts. Watch them come and go. First become aware of them – get into the habit of observing what is happening in your mind when you practice yoga. And then take that mindful awareness out into everyday life.
Become aware of the thoughts arising and passing and try not to grab hold of them. Let them pass…
What are you watering?
Ponder on this metaphor. Do you water flowers or weeds? Does your mind – your attention – linger on negative thought patterns and judgements? Do you find yourself saying or thinking the word “should” a lot? Do you linger in fear, anxiety, envy, jealousy, sadness or guilt?
Then you’re watering the weeds! Your attention – and thus your energy – is being spent on reinforcing negative thought patterns.
So why not choose to water the flowers instead? The path to the weeds may be well-worn (neural pathways which are used to firing off bringing familiar thoughts and behaviours, in yoga these are Samskaras or grooves or habit patterns).
Actively choose to find some mental flowers and water them instead!
Thoughts and feelings of love, joy, compassion, empathy, understanding.
Contentment and gratitude are a good place to start. No matter how your life or health is, you can find something positive to choose to focus on. Your home, your garden, your family, friends, music, hobbies, pets… Be grateful that the sun is out. Be grateful if it’s raining (it’s essential for the growth of our food after all!).
The power to heal
Learn to pay attention to where your attention is going!
Learning simply to be present with what is happening for you in any given moment has the power to heal and transform. To bring ease, equilibrium and peace with your body and mind.
That’s why I love to practise and teach yoga.
In the Southampton/Eastleigh area? Then come to a weekly class for regular mindful movement and relaxation in a supportive atmosphere. I teach seven public classes a week and monthly workshops – check out my yoga class timetable and workshops schedule to find out more and make a booking enquiry.
If you would like regular tips, insights and wisdom delivered to your inbox, and to receive a free 17-minute guided relaxation, then please leave your name and email address.