Bringing your life into focus with your yoga practice
“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important and capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t turn out, just take another shot”
The other day on the blog we talked about drishti which translates to focus, or gaze. I think when we are well-rested we tend to see things in a more positive light than when we are exhausted. Yoga practice can be very replenishing, especially if you balance out your practice with restoratives and quiet time.
People whose attention is all over the place can benefit from simple mindfulness practices and our breath is an excellent tool. You will find that just spending a few minutes (I have a 5 minute practice on my CD) following your inhales and exhales is quite powerful and transformative. It may be challenging to keep your focus on your breathing, thoughts can be strong distractions, but stick with the exercise and reap benefits over time. Attention follows awareness. We tend to lead busy lives that speed us from one thing to the next and then collapse from fatigue, which is all we can then focus on. Let’s try to cultivate new habits, move into the holiday season with equanimity and face 2015 with a great outlook. Join me this weekend for a PeaceFULL workshop !
Word of the day is drishti “or focused gaze, is a means for developing concentrated intention. It relates to the fifth limb of yoga (pratyahara) concerning sense withdrawal, as well as the sixth limb dharana relating to concentration.”
drishti ~ focus, gaze
Sometimes we practice asana with eyes open, sometimes, eyes closed. When we focus with open eyes, this focus is called drishti, or gaze. It is a soft and diffused gaze rather than a hard stare. Many classical poses have drishti points, and some pranayama techniques also call for a specific position for the eyes, such as the “third eye” area between the eyebrows, or, at the tip of the nose.
A classical yogic meditation techinique is Candle Gazing, where you maintain a soft eye focus on a candle flame. The focus helps to calm the mind, via the eyes. We are a very visual culture (think TV, Ipads, movies etc) and if you ever watched a crime show thinking you were relaxed, you should periodically check your heart beat because often the seeing is actually stressing the system. This doesn’t mean don’t watch your favourite crime show, just be aware that there is a powerful effect going on in your nervous system.
A nice way to “reset the eyes, erase the mind” is to palm the eyes after your meditation or relaxation. This technique is a way to relax the eyes, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. You rub your palms together to generate warmth then bring your palms gently over closed eyes
proper breathing: “without proper breathing the yoga postures are nothing more than calisthenics” R. Schaeffer
Asana is a great forum to discover who you are as a breather. You know from past posts of mine that breathing is a vast topic, with many therapeutic uses and applications. I often work with private clients to dive into their breathing persona and uncover the areas that could benefit from specific asana to help them move toward “proper breathing”.
For some, and I think this is what the above quote refers to, the tendency is to hold the breath or use stressed out breathing (short and shallow) while holding a posture, especially in a challenging pose. This creates more stress and tension in the body. In yoga, we want to create a calm and relaxed body, breath and mind through the conscious use of the breath in asana.
In asana, the break is the link between the mind and body, so that as you learn the coordination of breath and movement, your practice becomes harmonious, and your breath deepens of its own accord, therefore increasing circulation and stimulating metabolism … Also since there is a huge correlation between emotions, thoughts and breathing practices, one can direct the breath to enhance muscle relaxation by concentrating on tense areas of the body and consciously relaxing those parts with each exhalation.
Are you a fidgeter? I think it is important to navigate each yoga pose by breathing and sensing, so you may not get into it without little adjustments or the help of strategically placed yoga props. These can be your own, or where skillful attention and purposeful instruction come into play. I have seen it many times when I teach private yoga classes, that most people benefit from the teacher’s eye, and that finding comfort in the body, the mind will follow. After that though, if you still can’t stay still, it can be a question of focus. Learning how to breathe for mindfulness may help…
What do your focus on, the light or the clouds, or the wholeness of the moment?
what do you see?