Each breath you take can remind you to be here now, to treat this moment as important, and repeatedly to affirm the fact that right now you are exactly where you want to be, doing exactly what you want to be doing. You will probably be amazed at how much energy is suddenly at your disposal the moment you realize this. When you are no longer wishing you were somewhere else, doing something different, you will discover that energy is the given and that energy is abundant. What would you expect but the fullest enthusiasm and response when your body, mind, heart, attention, and interest are all in one place? When your attention is no longer splintered and dissipated through conflict, indecisiveness, or half-heartedness, you will experience an increase in energy and feel more alive.
This is especially interesting because, unless you are an absolute beginner, you’ll find your mind tiring long before your body. When your mind begins to tire, only then does your body start getting tired. As your interest begins to flicker and wane, you become less attentive. You start thinking of other things, wishing you were elsewhere. Your energy goes elsewhere. You treat your body and your yoga with less care, less respect; and automatically but not surprisingly, your body – following the dictates of your mind – loses its energy and also gets tired. But as you stay clear within yourself that this is what you want to be doing right now, you will be able to sustain interest and attention for longer periods of time. As your capacity for attention increases, so does your energy, your actual physical energy.
Your mental attitude, therefore, is the real source of energy and enthusiasm, and you will learn this very quickly in yoga. Interest is the key. Be interested in the quality of your participation, in discovering where your interest actually lies. Notice what attracts your attention and what motivates you. And attend to the change of tide – when do you start being less interested, and why? What brings it to life again? Notice how your interest fluctuates, how at some moments you are more interested than at other moments. This is not only the heart of yoga, it is the heart of life.
And understand, if the quality of your participation is half-hearted, fragmented, and conflicted, then that will be your experience, and it will not be as satisfying or fulfilling as it might. It’s not that you should be wholehearted and fully attentive. It’s that more and more you will want to be that way simply because being wholehearted and attentive to your present moment of conscious experience is where the greatest enjoyment lies. In this way it is possible to make every specific moment of your yoga practice enjoyable and meaningful.
It’s worth the small effort required to discipline yourself mentally to be attentative and present with whatever is happening each new moment. The way to stay most interested is by keeping your attention on what’s actually happening. Train yourself to stay in the now. Sometimes you will practice with vigor, sometimes you will practice with softness, and most of the time it will be somewhere in between. Yoga is not mechanical. The key is interest, and the trick is to be attentive in the moment to that which elicits your fullest enthusiasm and response.
The quality of your yoga, and of your life, depends solely on how interested you are in the doing of it. Interest unleashes the energy of passion, and passion expresses itself as quality. Therefore, especially toward the end of a session when both your body and your attention are beginning to tire, deliberately continue breathing with the ujjayi breath. It is not hard to do this, and to do so strengthens your capacity for attention. Strengthening your capacity for attention is the real key to yoga, and your breathing is the key to this capacity. This is more important than bring able to touch your toes, or stand on your head, or turn yourself inside out.
Eric Schiffmann is a yoga teacher and author of ‘Moving into Stillness‘.