How to Pay Attention

We are always being told to listen to the sensations, and release judgement etc in a yoga class.

But it occured to me that this is not always understood. So with my upcoming monthly course in yin this September, I thought it might be a timely change to take a brief look at this.

  1. Awareness – identifying your body sensations. Can you notice sensations within your body in your practice?
  2. Accessing – bring attention to the body’s inner experience via the breath and intention. Can you feel the sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body, especially the exhales.
  3. Reappraisal – re-evaluating situations and experiences. Yin allows us to sit with feelings of discomfort as an opportunity for growth and insight.

The role of fascia  You’ll often hear about fascia and yin, and how great yin is for your fascia.  What is it? Fascia is the type of connective tissue that wraps around every structure in the body – it serves as a sort of scaffolding that helps our bones, muscles and organs interact. Yin poses target this tissue – and stimulates cells within the fascia to communicate with the brain. This creates a sort of channel back and forth with the brain – and not just the brain but in particular the part of the brain that processes emotions. So your yin practice helps you tune in with the body, give feedback to the brain and understand / be aware of your feelings.

A note on emotions Interoception lets us sit with sensations in the body. For some these emotions and sensations might be uncomfortable, and you don’t have to push them. Ease back whenever you need to – yin is sitting with your edge, not pushing it. For some this sitting with emotion can act as a sort of revelation, a release of (especially when negative) emotions. And for others it is an indication that they need to ease off, maybe move out of a posture or even halt the practice for a second.  A reminder that you are your ultimate teacher, and the expert on what you need. Regardless of your interoceptive awareness, you know what is best for your body. Some exercises that may help you cultivate your interoceptive awareness:

  • Practice moving with intention – I once had a class where the teacher made us walk from one side of the mat to the other with the slowest, most intentional steps. Landing the heel and spreading the weight through the foot etc. Maybe you don’t go this precise, but move with a bit of awareness and intention.
  • Change up your routine – novelty keeps our brain guessing and subtle changes can help us re-tune in. And that doesn’t need to be a life shift, maybe you practice a slightly different flow or change your setup. Maybe you try a different variation or prop.
  • Keep your gentle practice – this helps reduce tension in the body. If you notice tension in the body maybe ease off a little. See if the sensations in the body change.
  • Reflect – sometimes we don’t notice any changes until we take stock. I once had a teacher use savasana as a point of reflection – if that works for you great. If not maybe journaling, or a little post practice stillness to reflect might be useful.
  • Use your asymmetry – we’re not equal on both sides. Notice how the right and left side feel different, do you have different expectations – do any emotions arise in either side.
  • Visualisation – when it comes to measuring your heartbeat you might visualise the heart pumping blood around the body. When in a pose maybe you visualise: the movement of air in and out of the lungs, the lengthening of the muscles, the extension of some parts of the body, the releasing of tension… the list goes on. And visualisation might help you tune in a little more with sensation.

Set the intention to pay attention.

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