I really enjoy yoga. Create whatever image in your head that coincides with that statement. I don’t wear or like Lululemon. I think they are pretty much antithetical to what yogic philosophy is all about. So now go ahead and modify the image from before..
I don’t do “hot” yoga or power yoga or competitive yoga or any of the things that are about trying to prove you are better, tougher or more intense than someone else. I do yoga because I like the way it stretches my body and my mind. I like yoga because I have to push myself, against myself and the experience is only about my growth. The classes I go to tend to by psychically cleansing and really end up providing a lot of good lessons about life. This is a bonus that happens while I’m getting stronger, or getting stronger is a bonus while I’m learning more about how to live. One of those things, probably both.
So in class on Thursday morning as I was winding myself into a balancing eagle and was being reminded by the chirping voice of my instructor, whose name not ironically is Harmony, to focus on something that was not moving out in the distance, I learned something that I think is very profound about balance, and focus, and myself. It was a really good class.
If you have done yoga before you are probably familiar with some of the balancing poses where you find yourself on one leg with the other parts of your body flaring out in various directions or all wound up; the goal is to stand in peaceful breathing and strength. You are learning how to be the calm amidst chaos. That is a really good lesson by itself. When you find yourself in a balance pose you actually have to balance and that can be challenging. If you think too much about trying to balance you fall, but if you fix your eyes on something not moving and just feel the earth beneath you it can go pretty well. And it does feel really good to stand there connected to the ground and pulling strength from the core to your core.
I stood there, twisted up but feeling strong and rooted, my eyes focused slightly downward to the floor in front of me. I decided that focusing in front of me meant that I was supposed to cast my eyes further out to the horizon, a fixed spot in the greater distance. I looked at the flowers at the far front of the room. I started to sway. I bent my knee a little deeper and brought my eyes back to the floor right in front of me and steadied. Ah-ha I thought, I do this to myself all the time. When I have a picture of the whole metaphorical room in my head but keep my focus on the thing right in front of me, I do really well. I am incredibly efficient at work, I manage difficult challenges with aplomb, I keep calm in the face of great annoyance. When I send my focus farther into the distance it is easy to get distracted and I start to sway from the core of who I am, from my best self.
Focus was the great gift of my class on Thursday. I worry a lot about the things that are far off in the distance. I can’t see them all that clearly and it is easy to let them push me this way and that. The trick seems to be to focus on what is right in front of you, and just check periodically the direction you are headed. When you don’t pay attention to where you actually are, it is hard not to get hurt on the way to where you are going.