What Are You Really Thinking During Yoga?
The beginning of yoga class usually starts in child’s pose to open the hips and clear the mind from the day. You roll your head side to side and start to connect to your breath. You try let go of your to-do list and bring the world within the four corners of the yoga mat. The idea of yoga is to turn inward; journey and travel to the magical land of bliss where thoughts fall away from the chattering monkey mind. For many of us that will last for about three to five breaths and then the thoughts creep in…
“Wow, that guy is so cute! look at his handstand!”
“I lost my ujjayi breath!”
“My bangs are stuck to my face, how am I going to get this sweat off me!”
“My toenails need to be re-painted; they’re chipping! I only had them done 2 weeks ago! I’m definitely not going to that girl again. I’ll have to call and reschedule my appointment.”
“I have to fart!”
“After class I’m going to Whole Foods. After this workout I deserve a trip to the hot bar”
“I am being so zen right now, I’m breathing, I’m flowing, I’m so yogic.”
“I need some new Lulu pants.”
We are all guilty of this, teachers and students alike. We come to yoga to let go but in creating space, what floods in is a tsunami of mind talk that distracts us from the flow of our practice. Although the intent is on the present, there are four main categories of thoughts that crowd the mind of the yogi:
“Check out my warrior 2 alignment in the mirror!”
The ego is a huge culprit at producing distracting thoughts during yoga. How do I look in the mirror? Does my outfit seem coordinated? My postures are really strong today! I am so off-balance in dancer’s pose - I hate myself; what a bad day! I am going to do three pushups in each chaturanga. I hope the teacher notices and compliments me on my practice. I’m going to get this alignment perfect!
The irony of yoga is that we try to let go of ego and find appreciation for where we are each day in the body, mind, breath, and spirit, but yoga many times does the exact opposite.
“Oooh look at that hot guy over there in handstand!”
One of the biggest distractions in yoga is other people. The constant comparison of others in postures to the point of a conscious or even an unconscious competition leads to distracting thoughts and ultimately a distraction of the practice. Even if the practice of non-judgmental, we do. We judge the whole way through! What are people wearing, how are they practicing, are they better than me? Am I better than them?
The wandering eye of the student to others in the room, especially in more challenging postures takes the student to a place where thoughts can either feed back into the ego in a way that falsely makes them empowered or insecure. We constantly also worry about what the teacher will think of us. Thoughts may also wander outside of the yoga studio to people in our lives. Family, friends, or co-workers may enter into our minds if a song or words from the teacher elicit an association.
“My balance today is so much worse than yesterday!”
We are often stuck in the past. Whether it is years or moments before class or perhaps rushing in traffic to get to yoga class! We carry on our shoulders and in our bodies the events of the past. As we are asked to let go in yoga, the mind falls victim to what is being let go and stays there. It is this attachment to past events, postures, or people that pull the mind from the present moment.
It is easy to get stuck overanalyzing past situations, or try to justify why we are the way we are. When the mind wanders to the past, it brings up emotions and situations that are no longer relevant to right now. When we think about previous events, we become consumed with comparing and contrasting. It becomes difficult to be in the present moment when the past clouds our minds.
“What am I going to do tonight after class?”
As class winds down and savasana comes, we settle in and become still. It is in this stillness that the last and perhaps strongest wave of thoughts enters our mind. What do I have to do now after class? What am I going to eat? I have to clean my house, pick up the kids, be home by this time! I have so much schoolwork to do! Wow that class was great! I am so interested in that detoxing program they announced in the beginning of class, when was it again, I’m not sure if that fits with my schedule? I smell so bad from sweating so much!
The anticipation of what is to be, whether in the flow of class or in the flow of life is a constant mental flux. We live in a society where we always want to know what is next; to plan ahead.
Get Out of Your Head
Well good grief! What the heck are we supposed to think about during yoga? How are we supposed to be present? To practice without comparison, judgment, and ego? We cannot turn off the mind but we can redirect it. The easiest way is focus on the breath or a simple mantra. If you notice your mind wandering think instead “I am thinking” and come back to where you are. We can only be in one place at one time; we are where our feet are, not in the past, not in the future but in the posture.
We become aware that everyone has these thoughts as well. We become aware that we are having these thoughts. We become intentional and mindful. Not only must these thoughts be acknowledged but ask the questions of WHY. Why are we thinking these thoughts? After class, start a journal and write down thoughts that entered the mind. Take time to reflect on why you think about them and every time you come to the mat see if you can try to have one less distracting thought and have one more mindful breath until your practice becomes a refreshing time of clarity.
Do you have any other tips or tricks that help you clear your mind? Care to share what you think about during savasana? Leave a comment below! If you think you want to be a contributing writer to YogaTravelTree.com, visit our Write for Us page and submit your article!
Sarah Kashdan - A Boston native, Sarah moved to Colorado in 2009 and yoga and teaching became her life passion. She found that a regular yoga practice allowed her to heal both physically and emotionally and now she is the happiest place of her life. Sarah has a master’s degree in toxicology and is also a Reiki practitioner. This combined interest in science and healing drives Sarah’s teaching to connect the mind, body, and spirit. She loves to see people find, cultivate, and shine their inner light. Currently she teaches studio classes at Corepower Yoga, Fort Collins, Mindstream Yoga, Fort Collins, and Old Town Yoga Fort Collins. Find Sarah on Facebook.