Focus = flow
I studied Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras over the 9 months of my teacher training and one of the things I love about the sutras is that it’s not just a guidebook for our yoga practice, it also describes quite accurately how the human mind works. Understanding the sutras that describe the human condition means we can arm ourselves with the necessary tools for accelerating the move towards less suffering....Patanjali describes what makes us suffer and describes the path away from such suffering through practice....
Patanjali’s yoga practice is mainly based on concentration and he says that this is the path to less suffering.... if we can focus on something, it makes the mind temporarily still, which allows us to experience what lies silently beneath noisy thought - untroubled true nature. According to Patanjali, concentration will set us free.
After listing several options for concentration such as breath, bliss, and subtle sense perceptions, he says, in Sutra 1.39, “Or by concentrating in whatever manner desired, the mind becomes stable and tranquil.” In modern psychology this is known as the ‘flow state’, or being ‘in the zone’, and is the mental state of being completely immersed in an activity, time seemingly slowing down and senses heightened.
Ashtanga yoga helps us facilitate this flow state....the routine and structure of the series, together with the additional focus of listening to the breath, the focus on 'gaze points', as well as the postures and bandhas, draws the senses actively inward, allowing practitioners to move through the Ashtanga primary series with complete awareness and presence, transforming the physical practice into a 'moving meditation'
I’m feeling that everything is more uncertain and unsettled than ever at the moment, but one thing I feel certain is that a steady and consistent Ashtanga yoga practice improves mood and wellbeing, and releases stress, helping us to feel grounded, balanced, and calm....leaving us with more clarity and energy, and less tension and anxiety.