Recently my two yoga classes have changed venues temporarily. It’s great that I can still hold the classes and we’re settling into the new venue. One thing that is different is the background noise levels. This is providing myself and the students with a useful challenge of remaining focused during the class, particularly during the pranayama, meditation and sivasana relaxation.
In any situation it’s easy to get distracted by something, then annoyed by it (e.g. people talking during films in a cinema). We tend to meditate in very quiet settings, removing all distractions and noises. But, it can be helpful every so often to meditate in settings where there are other things seeking our attention. Rather than get annoyed by them, we can use them to our advantage to focus even more on our breath or mind.
I’ve adapted the last 15 minutes of my classes to reduce slightly the sivasana time (I could see more fidgeting than usual!) but include some mindfulness of breathing meditation practices so that there’s something else to think about other than the background noises (which actually aren’t that bad at all really). The two practices I like are ones I first experienced at Taraloka.
Mindfulness of breathing – counting
Sitting comfortably, let the breath happen. You will be counting your way up to 5, on your natural breathing rhythm. Inhale, thinking ‘inhale’. Exhale, thinking ‘exhale’ then count to yourself ‘1’. Inhale again, thinking inhale. Exhale again, thinking exhale. Then say to yourself ‘2’. That’s two breaths. You repeat this up to 5. If you get to 5, congratulations! I’ve not got there yet. If you have any other thoughts other than ‘inhale’, ‘exhale’, or the number you’re on, you go back to number 1. If you get to a number and can’t remember how you got there and suspect you had other thoughts, you go back to 1. If you forget what number you’re on, you go back to 1. If you are quite advanced you can do this up to 10 instead. I find it a very useful practice.
Mindfulness of breathing – mantra
Sitting comfortably, let the breath happen. As you inhale say to yourself ‘I am breathing in’. As you exhale say to yourself ‘I am letting go’. The exhale is the releasing breath so let go of tension, stress, worries, thoughts etc. Just carry on breathing and repeating the mantra for as long as you want.
These are both quite useful practices for giving the mind something simple to do, allowing the thoughts to settle slowly, but also to keep you focused.