Get On the Mat!

Focus

“What you stay focused on will grow.” Roy T. Bennett

For the past several years, my sisters and I have each picked a word of the year. Instead of making a list of New Year’s Resolutions, we pick a word that represents our vision and goals for the upcoming year. We sometimes get mantra bracelets, necklaces or pictures to remind us regularly of our word. We love doing it together and it’s much more fun than making a list of resolutions that may or may not get done. The word of the year concept has picked up momentum over the last few years and it was featured on the Today Show in 2015. My daughter’s middle school teacher asked her students to each pick a word this year to represent their intentions for the New Year. It’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon and pick a word for yourself.

This year my word is Focus and I purchased my mantra necklace from the fabulous Farmhouse Store in Westfield, NJ. Like most of us, I wear many hats and have responsibilities that pull me in multiple directions. We all have 24 hours in a day but how we spend that time is different for everyone. I am hoping to improve my focus and use my time and energy with the people and projects that are most important to me instead of allowing distractions to take up my time.

Focus off the mat

  • To cultivate your ability to focus try picking one task like folding laundry, emptying the dishwasher or driving, and complete it with full awareness and no distractions. Do it without listening to music, checking email, logging into Facebook or watching TV. This can help bring awareness into how scattered we can be. Often we aren’t multi-tasking to increase efficiency, we are distracted or procrastinating.
  • Meditation is often used for stress relief but it can also enhance your ability to focus. Try this: Set a timer for 5 minutes, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Become aware of your breathing. Every time the mind wanders, bring your awareness back to your breath. Gaiam is a great source for meditations.
  • If sitting still is challenging, try a walking meditation. Take a short walk with no music or phone calls. Begin to quiet the mental chatter by becoming a nature observer. Look around and notice the sky, the trees, the birds and other animals. Just a few minutes outside can help clear the mind.
  • Use your breath. Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath. Try calming the body and mind with Sama Vritti, Equal Breathing. The inhales and exhales should be even. Sit comfortably and begin breathing through the nose. Inhale through the nose for five counts and then exhale through the nose for five counts. Practice Equal Breathing for as long as you like.
  • If you like essential oils try peppermint, frankincense or rosemary oil which have are used to help improve focus and concentration. Or try a cup of peppermint tea any time of day to aid in digestion and increase alertness.

Focus on the mat

  • Our yoga practice invites us to focus and stay present. To cultivate your intention of focus on the mat try a strong, slow, mindful practice holding each pose for 5-10 breaths. Tune into the body as you hold poses. Notice what parts of the body are engaged and active and what parts are opening and releasing. Breathe deeply through any resistance that arises. Find a focal point or Drishti with each pose preventing your eyes and your attention from wandering. Try some of these poses during your practice and don’t forget sweet Savasana at the end. Enjoy!

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Dan Millman