Those who love coffee know there is something special about that first cup of the day. I find a certain comfort in the process of brewing coffee, and especially like the aroma of freshly ground beans. For the thousands of times I’ve made coffee in the morning, you might believe that I’ve mastered this process. But when distraction found a path to my kitchen, I learned how important it is to place the carafe under the filter basket when brewing coffee!
For many of us, our world is rich with distractions, and they are not amenable to leaving us alone to pursue our task at hand. We have external distractions, such as the beep of newly arrived email, the buzz of a new text message, and a popup to demand our attention in case we missed the beep or the buzz. There are also internal distractions. These are wont to arise as a cascading set of thoughts, taking us further and further from our focal point, with no bread crumbs left behind to mark the return path. It is improbable that we can eliminate distractions — maybe minimize them at best. The good news is that our yoga can help us manage our distractions.
Let’s explore the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.2: yogas citta vritti nirodhah. This might be interpreted that yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of consciousness. A calm state of mind might be like the still surface of a pond, and distracted state like the rippling surface after the bird lands, sending waves to the shore, distorting the reflection of light. Some yoga teachers might offer that this one sutra is the comprehensive what and the balance of the sutras are the explanatory how. I think the explanations are helpful, and will pick three points to help us.
Asana is our physical practice. Movement accompanied by mindful loading of the muscles generally feels good. We can occupy our minds as we pay attention to the nuance of positioning our body into comfortable alignment. Pranayama is often thought of as breathing, and it extends to our flow of energy. We can use the breath to help us center by becoming very conscious of taking long and even inhalations and allow for deep and complete exhalations. This also helps us accumulate some energy to apply to the task at hand. Dharana describes applying the attention to a single object. This is a practice which can help us develop concentration by centering on one thought to the exclusion of others. We can also develop this in standing balance poses as we fix our gaze upon a single point, and allow our body to align and stabilize around this locus of focus.
Through the practice of yoga, we can cultivate skills that will help us manage our distractions. By developing our technique in asana, pranayama, and dharana, we’ll find it easier to pay attention what we are doing, to be more present, and to be more mindful. With my distractions currently held in check, I’m ready to brew the next pot, and savor the next cup.
Courtney Long offers Back to Basics Yoga each Saturday from 4:30 – 5:45, and each Monday morning from 7:00 – 8:00.