With all the new things to get used to—the poses, the breathing patterns, the equipment, and the strange feeling of standing on one leg next to people you've never met—it can be easy to get distracted during yoga class. Here are some tips on how to find your focus and make every yoga class positively divine.
Don't Worry What Others Think
“I look so stupid—everyone must be laughing at me.”
This is an easy thing to think in a yoga class, especially if you're just starting out. But there's no such thing as normal-looking yoga, and it's highly unlikely that anyone is judging your execution of a pose. Instead, they're doing exactly what you are: worrying about themselves! If self-consciousness causes your gaze to wander and your heart to race, stop and remember that no matter how ridiculous you think you look, chances are that everyone else in the room looks just as—if not more—ridiculous than you.
Rather than letting your thoughts wander toward what others are thinking, stay focused on yourself and the task at hand. You'll transcend your surroundings more than you would if you kept worrying about others' opinions.
Don't Fear the Pose
Some poses may seem downright impossible when you first see them, but don't be afraid to jump in and try them out. That's one of the best parts of yoga: The chance to do things that seem beyond the capability of the human body. Don't lose focus just because you fear the difficulty of the pose.
Carry Your Breath
Breathing is the one part of yoga class that never changes, no matter how advanced you are. Concentrating on steady, deep breaths not only helps you focus, but also calms both body and mind to create a more stable pose.
If you're having trouble concentrating, always return to your breath: It's the one place you can never go wrong.
Are your muscles shaking in a new pose? Don't worry, this just means they're working overtime to build strength and length. Rather than withdrawing a little from the pose, keep your position, but focus your mind and breath on the area that's quivering. You may be surprised at just how much power your mind can have!
Feel the Individual Muscles
Once you've started to find your focus and calm your mind, begin to further engage your body. How can you go deeper into poses using only mental skills? Imagine being inside your body, controlling each individual muscle in every pose. What are the muscles doing? Contracting, lengthening, relaxing?
This skill is particularly useful in one legged or balance-centric poses; by focusing on “hugging” the muscles of your standing leg (or other weight bearing extremity) you create a much more stable base on which to stand. Hugging the muscles in toward the bone causes them to contract, which is vital in poses that require strength, balance, and stability. In any given pose some muscles are hugging, or squeezing, in, while others are being lengthened.
Imagine that you're a tree, and beneath your feet are big, bark-covered roots. Imagine those roots crawling through every pore in the flooring, grabbing deep underneath the studio and into the core of the earth. Feel more stable?
Grounding and rooting yourself to the floor will help you find your center, no matter what position you're in. Feel your weight pulling through the floor wherever you make contact with it. Create balance by feeling the upper most point of your body being pulled like a puppet on a string, all the way through the ceiling and high into the sky. The opposition between grounding and growing will create a beautiful length throughout your entire body.
Use Your Eyes
If the eyes are the window to the soul, neglecting those windows will cloud your view of everything, both inside and out. Using your gaze in yoga will not only help you balance, but will also allow you to reach a more beneficial physical and emotional state during the poses. Figure out what works best for your gaze in your yoga practice. Don't be afraid to experiment: close your eyes, focus on a small spot over the horizon, or try and bring the tip of your nose into focus. The gaze (or lack thereof) that works best for each pose can vary, or it can be the same. Try everything and see what you like.
The only wrong thing to do with your eyes is to not use them!
Feel Your Energy
Yoga is bodily gospel.
Master Yoga Teacher
Whether or not you believe in the divinity channeled through each pose, one thing you can always imagine is the energy contained within your own body.
Find the most lengthened point of your body in any and every pose, and imagine a stream of energy shooting out of it, hitting the walls and bursting through the studio: If you're in warrior pose, imagine force coming out of your finger tips; in rabbit pose, imagine each vertebra spouting energy; identify energy points for each pose and visualize beams of light shooting out from them. This will not only bring your focus into play, activating the mind, but also create energetic and active muscles in each pose.
Master Your Focus
Despite all the sensory stimuli a yoga class can have, once you learn to find and channel your focus, you'll be able to master your asanas calmly and in control. And you may just develop a greater ability to still your mind and focus in daily life!