The Power of Attention
On a similar note, my niece and I do yoga together. Lucky me, we trade: my one on one yoga sessions for her talent as a designer (and she is incredibly talented… did you see my logo?). This arrangement is so much fun. I love working with all my clients but there is something particularly special about sharing the growing experience and witnessing my now adult niece flowering and becoming the beautiful, powerful, intuitive woman I saw in her since she was a little girl. Recently, our sessions have been restricted by an ankle injury she sustained when playing rec basketball (she is all sweet until you are between her and a win). Our sessions include almost no physical exertion, instead we have been focusing on breath and bodily awareness. Following our breath with curiosity and conscious awareness to we what we can uncover. After a few of the seemingly simple sessions, my niece said “I have bee paying more attention to my breath and my body and its kind of weird, I can NOT believe the power of my mind and how big of a difference just paying attention can make!”
Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself! There is a lot of talk these days about the power of intention, and intention is great. It can really make a difference in your life for sure, but intention without action? Well, as a good friend says “you know where the road paved with intentions leads right?”
Conscious attention, on the other hand, is a combination of intention and action. What, you say? Sitting and thinking can be classified as action and not just lazy day dreaming? Yes! This is partly due to the power of mirror neurons, those fabulous little brain cells that light up in a brain scan that “mirror” what we see. Whne you eat an ice cream Sunday while I watch, the motor cells in my brain that would be responsible for eating an ice cream Sunday will light up. Its as if, in my embodied brain, I have eaten an ice cream Sunday just by watching you do it. This is partially how we learn to do things like riding a bike, by watching others. Fascination yes, and even more so it that a similar thing happens just by thinking about doing something!! So if you are lying down with pain and restricted movement in your hips and lower back from sciatica pain (for example) and you are doing some gentle movements to loosen your sacrum while consciously linking your breath and movement, imagining filling your lower abdomen and hip joints , surrounding them with nourishing oxygen on the inhale and letting the exhale carry out tension and pain along with the carbon dioxide and cellular waste products. You may not immediately jump up off the mat and do a jig but with patience and practice this kind of mindful awareness of breath and movement can change you. It starts by helping signal your parasympathetic nervous system that you are ok, which starts to slow your heart rate and breath, which changes the biochemistry, lowering adrenaline and cortisol, increasing the feel good duo of oxytocin and dopamine. Continued practice may slim your body, but will certainly build your brain, that oh so important prefrontal cortex and its essential 9 functions. Shall I go on? This stuff is so fascinating isn’t it? While there is lots of research on each of these observations, I am not making any medical claims here, I am just saying, what do you have to loose by trying it out? You might find like my neice has, that you have an incredibly powerful human mind and that just by paying attention you may change not only your perspective but your life!
Now, if only I could get my other 12 nieces and nephews into the studio!