Jana is a yoga enthusiast who investigates every aspect of this ancient art with both Zen and zeal.
Get Your Free Flow Right Here
Hey, anything free sounds good but what exactly is flow? A magical little moment, flow makes one feel like you are finally in your natural state; stress free, safe, creatively producing on a level that seems both effortless and superhuman. It usually happens when the mind focuses wholly on something. No distractions, worries or an analysis of what's happening. Just streamlined focus. Athletes and artists know flow, when time seem to stand still, and they create unexpectedly good results. But flow is for everyone and yoga can teach how to summon this remarkable state when needed.
Why Are We So Unhappy?
Before joy and flow can enter one's existence, it's important to understand why they left in the first place. We all experience these two qualities as children but as we grow up, they disappear along with Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy.
- Instead of just being, life turns into a never-ending race to make ends meet; the things that make us happy are shelved to survive the daily grind
- The need to analyze, label, predict and evaluate everything corrodes the ability to relax
- Society rewards overachievers, often at the cost of their relationships and health
- Life can be persistently difficult, unfair and sometimes downright frightening
It's time to get out of fast-forward mode. Yoga teaches how to hit pause and then press play.
Why Pausing Is difficult But Necessary
These days, time is money and money is everything else. Too much leave can get you fired or demoted if there's no “real” reason (and taking your emotions to the spa doesn't count). If you run a business, it can mean less work and thus a smaller income. The mind has almost been programmed to view slowing down as lazy, something retired people do or an unnecessary threat to an already packed schedule. Rent, kids, work and the household can feel like wrangling cats and getting nowhere. Funny thing about cats; when you stop chasing them, they sit still.
Frantic activity isn't entirely what you see; half of what makes it frantic is in the mind. Sure, toddlers won't slow down, nor will your day but when the mental side of what is perceived as a fast pace is dealt with, then half of it loses its power over you. That's where pausing comes in.
Kids Do It Naturally
An Active Standstill
To pause is not to do nothing. It's a step back to disconnect from emotional flailing, look at what's going on around you without judging, without labeling. This may sound difficult and yes, trying it out of the blue, it might just be impossible. However, pausing is a benefit that develops alongside a yoga routine. Yoga requires the person to just be, to focus only on the posture and to forget all else. As time goes by, this improved ability to focus, occurs more often in other areas of life. Since it brings clarity, the situation can be better assessed and dealt with. How many times have we made something worse because emotions interfered? Fighting with one's spouse or child because of a problem at work? Hooking up with a date you know is wrong for you but the loneliness was worse? Emotions aren't bad, but they can be when they dictate our behaviour. Pausing allows one to view the true reason anger or need arises and then responding appropriately without compounding the problem.
Flow and Stress Don't Mix
One of the biggest obstacles to experiencing pausing and flow is stress. There's no way to completely eradicate stress; there are too many outside influences — difficult people, financial trouble, an illness, sudden danger, the world getting more complex, the list goes on. The body deals with stress in terms of adrenaline and the fight-or-flight response, both damaging to health in the long run.
The body is a valuable asset, just like a car or a laptop. To work at optimal levels, a certain order of maintenance is in order. Yoga zaps stress in the mind and wherever it lurks in the body. Doing your exercise routine cannot stop your boss from being unfair or your teenager's moods bouncing all over the place. However, during yoga, a safe space opens where relaxation is possible. In a hectic life, this safe zone is a good start to reclaim peace. Eventually, as your capacity to merge with your daily sanctuary grows, fears and stress recede until one day, perhaps unexpectedly, flow happens during a session.
An Optional Fast Track
Though it remains an important part of yoga, meditation is not mandatory. That being said, for anyone interested in doing more to cultivate the chances of flow, meditation can help. As a calming influence on the mind, it lessens feelings of being out of control by adding more clarity to everyday situations. Better insight separates the real threats from imaginary worries. Knowing when it's useless to worry allows you to let go. Letting go equals less stress. Less stress opens more space for flow.
Meditation Moments Are Close to the Zone
How to Nurture the Zone
When you flow into the zone, you know it. Time ceases, skills are heightened, thinking is crystal clear and the right moves are obvious and effortless. Experienced practitioners use yoga as a door to enter the zone whenever they choose. This ability is in the reach of anyone willing to take the time to develop it. The first rule is not to be hasty, the second is diligent posture practice. Don't just go through the motions. Flow is build, gram by gram, when postures are performed with focus and awareness. Be aware of sensations, feel the breath as you inhale or exhale, lightly observe your thoughts and let them go. Afterwards, try to observe any changes in your body and mind. If there are none, acknowledge that too and then let the thought go. Don't cling to anything.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to daily yoga practice, no matter how short or long, done with mindfulness. This may sound a little lackluster but eventually, it works. Without fanfare and without warning, flow arrives and the moment is unforgettable. It's bliss, joy and happiness, all in one.
Why Is the First Time so Hard?
With practice, anyone can access the zone whenever they feel like it. Granted, getting there and experiencing flow for the first time does take time. However, this is different for each person. Some might have beginner's luck and hit the jackpot after a few tries. Another practitioner might take months. Why? The main reason that separates the quick achievers from the slow arrivals is the condition of the person's body and mind. Often, the body is tired, weak and the mind is fearful or chaotic. Just keep showing up – yoga calibrates everything until balance is achieved. Finally, remember, there's no race here. Progress works on an individual basis. The moment you think something's wrong with you because the zone remains elusive, stop that thought immediately. Just keep showing up.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Jana Louise Smit