In today’s power yoga classes, there are so many things happening at once, leaving with you very little room to remember the most essential things to think about.
The thoughts can go back and forth like a ping pong ball, it may feel a bit difficult to slow down and actually do what you came for, like “what breath am I on? Oooh I like that song. Gosh the traffic was so bad on the way over, and the parking attendant was a jerk! Oh yeah, BREATHE! Which way with my leg again? Shit, I forgot to move the laundry over. Woah that girl next to me is doing some crazy things with her body. OMG it smells really bad. I’m hot. Exhale. Reach my arms where? I wonder why that guy from two nights ago never texted me back, maybe I’ll text him after class.”
Here are 5 really simple things to focus on throughout class that will help you stay focused and present, so you can actually receive the full benefits of yoga:
The breath is the life force energy that fills your body with almost everything you need. When you focus deeply on your breath, it is impossible to focus on anything else, such as your quadricep muscle burning in Warrior 2, or the sweat dripping down your nose, how many thoughts your brain is trying to produce to interrupt that focused breath, or even the internal dialogue that can be either pulling you down or pushing you up.
I like to refer to the breath as my super-hero power that we ALL have. The super part comes in when you can actually be disciplined enough to control it in the midst of chaos, whether in a yoga pose or a stressful moment.
2. Don’t look at the person next to you.
The famous Bryan Kest has a great opinion that he likes to share with his students throughout class on this topic. He describes it so perfectly when he explains there are no two bodies on this entire planet that have ever, will ever, or do exist identically. Every single person has a different make-up and composition of DNA within their physical bodies, so to look at the other yoga students in a class and compare yourself to the structure and shape in which they are moving is “pathetic”, unrealistic, and delusional. There is no possible way that you and another person in that room can look the same no matter what position your body is.
This is a powerful awareness to have when walking into an acrobatic environment where the main focus is Asana (poses). The real yoga is happening underneath the skin on a more energetic level. If you just focus on the shape of the bodies, you’re missing what’s actually happening.
3. Learn the lessons.
Realize that everything happening on your mat happens in real life. You’re in core and you’re secretly cursing the teacher because it’s so intense. Blame. You are pissed off trying to hold your balance in Tree pose, and get frustrated with yourself. Negative Self-Talk. You are doing a huge backbend and you forget to breathe. Losing your resources when you open your heart.
Or even giving yourself excuses why you don’t want to try that arm balance because you are in the face of your fear and don’t want to play on the edge of that discomfort. The purpose of these challenges is to test you. Once you see what the gift is and you realize the lesson, you can move on from the emotion behind it and enjoy the sensation in your body.
4. Attitude of Gratitude
Don't think about what happened earlier that day, or where you're going after class because none of that matters. We aren’t living each moment in the future, or in the past, we are literally right here right now. Whatever house, job, car, relationship, outfit, bank account amount you desire that isn’t happening right now, will not happen any sooner by you living in the absence of it. Experience gratitude for all of the things that actually are present right now, and your ever-expanding attitude of gratitude will attract even more incredible things into your world.
Then that leaves you with the power to just become present in every moment to truly experience what is happening on your mat and why the heck you’re even sitting on it and breathing and moving.
5. Take Breaks
It’s called honor. It’s the opposite of Ego. Meaning that it allows you to tune into the content of feedback that your body is actually giving you, rather than the shapes you try to force into it without thinking.
The greatest thing you can ever do for your practice is to find your edge and challenge yourself to the next level. But for every yin there is a yang, ever black there is white, and for light we too have darkness. In the moments of compromised integrity are the moments of opportunity to slow down and seek. That is where the wisdom comes.
When you can focus on these five things, you are bringing more mindfulness into your practice, giving a chance for yourself to receive what Yoga really can do. It’s an ancient practice, and there’s a reason it’s been done for over 10,000 years. It really works, if you’re willing to silence yourself enough to listen and play full out.