The untrained mind is always wandering from thought to thought, from desire to desire, and from aversion to aversion. The mind gravitates towards things that give it pleasure and pushes away those that cause pain or suffering.
Without training in 'mindfulness' or 'paying attention to the present moment', most people are at the mercy of their thoughts and cannot harness the power of their brain.
This inability to focus, to steady the mind is part of a condition know as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and it affects both children and adults.
Yoga, when taught correctly, is a cognitive control exercise that enhances the ability to self-regulate your internal distractions.
To help control your mind and activate Alpha Waves (relaxed concentration) in your yoga practice, it is essential to constantly engage three techniques:
- Ujjayi Pranayama – an expanded, rhythmic, and balanced breath, that engages all of the lungs and helps shift the autonomic nervous system towards the parasympathetic side – relaxation response.
- Mula Bandha – the activation of the pelvic floor muscles and also the gentle pulling in and upwards of the lower abdominal muscles. Mula Bandha helps to take weight off the spine and stabilize the sacrum plate, which protects the lumbar spine from compression.
- Drishti – specific focal points for the eyes when practicing, so that 20% of the vision is external and 80% is directed internally. When the eyes are darting around, it is a clear indication that the mind is unsteady.
These three techniques do not happen spontaneously and must be consciously applied, especially when maintaining them throughout a practice. Like Neptune's three-pronged Trident, when the three techniques are activated, they hold the mind steady and make it possible to be fully in the present moment.
The regular practice of yoga brings great gifts of flexibility and strength, but its gem is what it can do for your mind – creating a clear cloudless sky for the enjoyment of your soul.
“The physical body is not only a temple for our soul, but the means by which we embark on the inward journey toward the core.”
― B.K.S. Iyengar