Be Present Here and Now in Yoga: Santosha, Balance and Focus During Yoga Classes

“Now, Here, or Nowhere” is what some yoga instructors might tell you if you drift away from the present moment when you’re in class.

Balance Practice

It can be challenging to stand for the duration of seven or eight breaths (about 30 seconds) in Vrksasana, or Tree Pose (pictured below). Imagine trying to follow these instructions:

  • Stand balanced on one foot.
  • Focus the gaze on a drishti (a single immobile point used to steady the mind).
  • Concentrate on maintaining the posture properly – spiralling the hips open and the raised knee further out and away from the body, using the pressure of the foot on your thigh to keep it up.
  • … and while you’re doing that, try to figure out what you’re going to have for dinner tonight.

One of two things is likely to happen: either you will fall over, or your mind will refuse to leave the present moment (preferably option 2.)

Use the breath to Focus on the present moment

Much of the stress relief available in a regular exercise regimen comes from spending time in the present moment. Most workouts use the breath in synchronization with movement. Weight lifters exhale as they lift their weights in bicep curls. Martial artists cry out to exhale with force as they punch or kick.

All mind-body workouts such as Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi require students to tie the breath with the movements of the body because the concentration and involvement of the breath is what brings the mind into the present. (In Take Time to Breathe, we explored the links between breath and time.)

Breath is the simplest key to being mindful of the present moment. Most lessons in meditation practice begin with the student quieting the body and listening to the sound of the breath.

Consider how relaxing this sound is: the oceanic sound of a mother breathing around her infant in the womb, the echoing sound within a nautilus shell and those same wavelike whispers of our own breaths as we inhale and exhale from one moment into the next.

Santosha

Of Patanjali’s eightfold path, this most closely relates to the niyama Santosha, or contentment. Santosha implies peacefulness and tranquillity that can only be cultivated with meditation and mindfulness. A student trying to learn Santosha should strive for contentment with what they have and who they are, equally unconcerned about the next moment and the next big thing.

By telling students “Now, here, or nowhere” what the instructor means is that you should be here on the mat with your body and in this moment, or your mind should be completely blank. In a state that Buddhists refer to as “emptiness”, a state of unlimited possibility and unlimited joy.

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