How many of you during a yoga practice catch yourself drifting off into dream land? How many times have you been caught out when the teacher asks “are you holding your breath?” How many times do you find yourself thinking of the days tasks when you are meant to be focused on a pose?
This happens to pretty much the majority of people in a yoga class. This still happens to me. This is 1 of the reasons why people do yoga.
Yoga helps us focus our minds. In a scientific explanation, yoga basically helps your brain cells develop new connections and when this happens, changes occur in your brain structure and brain function. For example improved cognitive skills, things like memory, learning, visual processing, reasoning, your attention. It strengthen the part of the brain that plays a key role in things like language, thought and awareness.
When you can bring focus to your practice and really feel what is going on physically, mentally and emotionally and bring all of these 3 things together and combine them with movement…..BOOM. It’s the best feeling. You really feel like you are beginning to understand yourself. It creates clarity and peace at the same time. The judgment you hold about yourself and the criticism all seems to disappear and you are left with a sense of calm and euphoria.
You may be saying that’s all well and good Jen but my life is chaos, i’m always running from one place to the next, if i’m not helping the kids, i’m making dinner, or cleaning the house or looking after my partner or the dog. If you are that person then you need this more than anyone.
These types of practices aren’t for you to realise you have a busy mind and continue giving yourself a hard time about it, it’s for you to notice and then release. When you can use the tools I am about to share, you will start to gain more focus. I use these tools in every class I teach, I give the cues to help you snap back to where we are and what we are doing.
So here they are, 3 ways to re focus your mind during yoga.
Take a moment right now and close down your eyes. Bring your focus to your feet, then your calves, your thighs and take this wave of awareness through your entire body and just feel each body part. You don’t need to do anything, just notice each part of the body. This is what you do in your yoga practice.
You safely make your way into the pose. You then scan the body and notice what adjustments you need to make to get the best out of that pose. What do you need to do to make the pose more enjoyable and for it to feel good in your body. Where are you creating space and feeling a stretch but also where you are feeling strong and supported.
Whenever your mind goes else where bring it back to what is going on in the body. What are you feeling? Where is the tension? Where are you feeling the sensations?
Again close your eyes and settle into your space. Breathe easy, you don’t need to breathe in any certain way just be an observer of the breath. Now bring your focus to the tip of your nose. Begin to feel the air as it moves in and out through your nostrils. Feel the temperature of the breath. Notice are you trying to control the breath. Are you breathing the way you think you should or is it natural? Breathe in for 4 seconds and breathe out for 4 seconds and do this cycle of breath 5 times. Once you are finished, stop, keep the eyes closed and breathe easy, go back to watching the breath moving in and out of your body. Then open your eyes.
How do you feel? When you slow and smooth the breath down you are basically flicking the switch for your relaxation response. When you can keep your focus on your breath and move with the rhythm of it, it becomes like a moving meditation. You use the inhale to create space and expand and use the exhale to let go and release. You also get the benefits of both asana practice (postures) and meditation (focus on breath). Body and mind. You will leave your practice feeling restored and clear.
This is the one I find most people struggle with. It could be because the are unaware of their thought pattern, it maybe something that comes up is uncomfortable, it maybe that whatever comes up is too painful to process that we shut it out and push it down. The thoughts and feelings that come up in your practice like, frustration, judgement, restlessness…..don’t shy away from them. Feel into them, acknowledge them, be with them. When it gets too much breathe deeper, smoother, slower. When the mind is trying to override you and that overwhelming feeling of everything that is going on starts to kick in, don’t give into it. Tell yourself all is well and breathe. This is why being in the right variation of a pose is so important. If you are in the full expression of a pose and it feels too much, your breathe with become erratic and rigid. This is the switch for the stress response. The body tightens, the mind races and your heart rate increases making you want to get the hell out of there. Remember you are in control of your mind, you get to say what is going on, you get to make the decisions.
You can use these tools separately or stack them together.
Once you get into a pose scan the body first, do what you need to do to feel good.
Then bring awareness to your breathe, do you need to adjust it?
As you breathe and hold your body in a safe way notice what is coming up for you, what thoughts or emotions are rising to the surface. Don’t push them away but acknowledge them and then make a decision. Choose to focus on what it is that you are doing in that moment instead of letting your mind take the lead.
Repeat this process as much as you need to and I promise it gets easier and you will start to feel the mental focus, clarity and space.
A great way to implement these tools is in Yin Yoga. Yin yoga is about slowing down, nurturing, self care, self love, understanding. The class is very slow and restorative so implementing the tips above are a little easier.
I am hosting an in person Yin Yoga workshop on Saturday the 28th of January at Parklands Country Club from 1pm-2.30pm.
If you want more details on this workshop please let me know. I have a few spaces left so send me a email/message/text if you are interested.
Sending lots of love