"D" IS FOR DECEMBER, DIALOGUE, & DISTRACTIONS
I'm going to let you all in on a little secret... actually 2 secrets. These are things that yoga teachers don't often share.
1.) We get distracted
2.) We have a second dialogue running in our head. Wait until you hear it.
3.) Not a secret ... we are students.
Ok so what's the point of sharing this parody? The point is distractions are present all the time and they happen to each and every one of us. Distractions are defined as a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else or extreme agitation of the mind or emotions. What's the antidote? A mindfulness practice. Practicing yoga is one way to increase mindfulness - both on and off the mat. Even Harvard says so. Let's look at distractions through a few different lenses.
THE BEGINNER STUDENT
Remember that first class? The first 30 seconds you're thinking, "I got this" and 5 minutes later you're not so sure you got anything except for a case of "When is this over?" Sweat is trickling out of every pore, your heart is pounding, and your breath ... well ... you forgot whatever the teacher said about breathing so you're just sucking in as much air as you can. You're dying to quench your thirst ... or maybe you think you're going to die. You are so in your own head your peripheral vision is as wide as a blind bat. You are completely oblivious to everything around you except for when the teacher makes a move toward the windows or doors. You start sending telepathic signals to her or him, "Oh please open the door! Please, please, please open the door!" You're doing your best to navigate this foreign and uncomfortable terrain. But let's be honest - the heat in the beginning is an enormous distraction. So much so you don't notice the 18,000 other distractions.
THE EXPERIENCED STUDENT
You've acclimated to the heat. You know what posture is next. You understand the benefits of the yoga and you've learned that getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is a catalyst for change. Your body and your mind know what to expect. This is not your first rodeo taking class. You may even be considered a "regular." As you've adapted to the environment and your awareness has heightened you may find yourself wrestling with those 18,000 other distractions. Perhaps your mind sounds like this, "He's breathing too loud. Who breathes like that?" "Look at her alignment. Her knee is totally bending." "Why is she opening the door?" "Is he turning the heat down?" "His mat is too close to mine." "Ugh, I need to stop eating carbs. I look so fat." "I should have drank more water last night." "Why is he doing a headstand?" "Why can't she just standstill?" "She's holding the posture too long." "When is he going to say change?" The distractions are endless and range from nagging to full blown aggravation.
THE BEGINNER TEACHER
"Oh my God. I hope I remember all the words. Oh my God. My mouth is so dry. Oh my God. I don't think I've ever sweat like this before. 90 minutes later ... what just happened?" That is essentially what the secondary dialogue sounds like. Much like the beginner student, the beginner teacher does not see you picking your toenail polish, rolling your eyes, or delicately drumming your fingers during Savasana. During the infancy of our teaching we are oblivious. We are in our head while at the same time trying not to be. We are expert students and novice teachers. It's one big basket of energy overflowing with excitement and nervousness. Tuning in to harness the energy and distractions takes time and practice. You see the parallel now?
THE EXPERIENCED TEACHER
The dialogue gets repeated in our sleep. We know where and how you will set up in the room if you are a regular. We know when you will smooth your hair, adjust your shorts, or wipe the sweat from your face at any certain part of class. The secondary dialogue running in our head bounces between, "How can I help you get more out of your practice?" Versus, "What am I doing next?" It's a constant practice of returning to the present moment. Each word and each posture. It's built upon the foundations we have learned as students. The distractions never end. There will be heat and humidity to monitor, corrections to make, support and praise to give, instructions to be delivered, and moments to allow for some vulnerability. Meanwhile the curveballs will keep coming - leaf blowers will happen during class, the phone will ring, students will leave the room, and dinner plans may remain a mystery in our head. All the same things will happen when we are on our mat.
Mindfulness. Become aware. Once we are aware of the distractions, our patterns, and our habits we then enable ourselves to change. We can change the pathways in our mind. But before we can change we have to notice it. It's just like brushing your teeth. You wake up and notice your mouth doesn't feel very fresh. So you take action. You do something to change that. And you do that because you want to. You make the conscious choice.
So when we become distracted, especially during this busy month, notice if you're being pulled away from what you want. Just like in class, notice what's happening. Ask yourself what you want out of your practice. If you want to instill a sense of calm and peace in yourself notice how the distractions can push you the opposite way. When you notice it, remind yourself of what you want and let the other stuff happening around you drift away with each conscious breath.
Wishing you peace and less distractions this December - Emily