Fundamental Teachings on Inner Attention: Inner Attention
We Must Turn our Gaze Inward
Yogi Bhajan once said, “Look Outside, Become a Victim. Look Inside Become a Master.” Eventually, we all must come to the realization that the outside world, with all its promises, does not have the solution for us. We must turn our gaze inward. – Tommy Rosen
Here are considerations for teaching this fundamental and ever-vital practice of bringing compassionate awareness to the inner experience.
Avoid Unconscious Yoga
It’s easy to practice yoga as though it were exercise, moving from posture to posture, with little awareness of the sensations in your body or your feeling state. This is unconscious yoga, and though you will feel good afterward and will receive many physiological and psychological benefits from your practice, you run the risk of energetically reinforcing old patterns and habits of mind. – Amy Weintraub
Close Your Eyes So You Can See More
Turning out the lights, and encouraging you to close your eyes is meant to reconnect you to your true self and your soul’s guidance. The more I can facilitate you looking inward, the more powerful your transformation can be. One of my favourite teachers, Max Strom, would always say, “close your eyes so you can see more.” Everything you want to change in your life begins with an inner transformation. Your inward journey is your most powerful one. – Gloria Latham
Finding Our Way “Back Home”
As Kripalu teacher Stephen Cope explains, postures can help us find our way “back home” to our bodies, hearts and minds; to a place of inner wisdom that has been there all along. How does this work? Practiced with compassionate awareness (the key ingredient!!), postures can offer a safe container through which one can be present to sensations, feelings and thoughts that come up as energy rises and circulates. In my own practice as I become present to these inner experiences, however pleasurable or deeply challenging, and with kindness and love, the more I realize that while these experiences are part of who I am, they are not the full picture. …. They are simply feelings and sensations that come and go, rise and fall, in the field of a greater and more spacious awareness of who I really am.
The next time you bring attention to a feeling or sensation in your body or mind, you might ask yourself: “Who/what is that part of myself observing these experiences?” In yoga that part is often called the “Witness” or “True Self”. It is an aspect of ourselves that is nonreactive, that remains clear and neutral even in the midst of turbulent emotional waves. – Christy Fisher
Make Your Practice Contemplative
Make your practice contemplative; always observe your moods, thoughts, reflections and dreams that surface through this work. – Tias Little
Let This Home Be Enough
Let’s try this together:
Take a deep breath.
And then take another.
Reach your arms overhead and linger, moving this way and that.
Bring your hands down gently; leave one to rest on your heart and one on your belly.
Close your eyes and breathe this in: home. You are home.
With your hands on this precious body, feel that knowledge slip deep into your bones.
This is all that is certain in this moment.
Rather than letting that be scary, let it be enough.
In fact, let it be more than enough.
Let the magnitude of it fill your every perception and catch in your throat.
Let the force of love behind that take you over and swallow you whole.
Because you’re not just lovable,
You are love.
Let your hand on your heart and belly be your touchstone,
coming back to it whenever you need —
as often as you need.
– Anna Guest-Jelley
Using Posture Holds to Explore & Practice
Each time we entered a pose, the instructor, counted to five in an excruciatingly slow fashion… My reaction was resistance. I fidgeted and squirmed because my body wanted to move. I started to think about where the sequence was going and what pose we would move into next. It was so hard for me to just be in my body. Each pose felt like 10 breaths, even more so on the second side when I knew what was coming. I started to explore my breath. Breathing provided just enough action to assuage my noisy brain, which I required before I could actually arrive on my mat. What I discovered from this particular practice was that I wasn’t even really in a pose until the count of four, and by then we were preparing to exit the pose. – Laura Hand
Be Aware of Doubts & Let Them Pass
Be aware of all the times in your practice or in a pose when your mind asks, am I doing it right? Is this what I should be feeling? I don’t look like the photo in the book—I must be doing it wrong. Doubt these doubts! Let them pass and anchor your mind more deeply in the present moment. Allow this moment to flow into the next without doubting, comparing, judging, or analyzing. Simply observe, be open, accept, embrace what is right here, right now. Only this pose, only this moment. – Baron Baptiste
The Inner Guru
The first time I heard a yoga instructor say “Listen to your inner guru.” I… got the big “ah ha.” … This phrase about an inner guru got to me and has stayed with me for several years… In my earlier yoga practices, I relied on my yoga teachers for guidance of how to move and what to feel. In my life, I was seeking counsel from close friends to deal with difficult curveballs. With time and this new chickie guru inside, I became better equipped to inquire more easily: What am I present to? What feels most in alignment to me now? Instead of checking with my ego or my overly emotional feelings, I was able to check with a more compassionate, gentle, knowing within myself. My inner guru felt less harsh than my over analytical mind; more sound than my gushing heart. Over time, I have been able to witness the difference between the voice in my mind that prattles continually, has a strong opinion and is driven beyond reason and the voice that truly has my highest interest in mind. My yoga instructor who used, but didn’t overuse, this phrase, was able to bring a spiritual influence to my yoga experience without laying it on too thick. – Dr. Erika Putnam
Our Body/Mind Sends Us Messages All the Time
The Witness is that aspect of ourselves that brings awareness to what we think, feel, believe and do, and the habits and patterns that inform why we think, feel, believe, and do. The Witness is the agent of awareness, acceptance, integration, and perhaps change…
Our body/mind sends us messages all the time. The mind may use language but the body speaks with feeling and sensation. If we know how to listen and interpret the messages we can do a better job of living a wise and balanced life. Recognizing and engaging with the Witness is an important tool to create that conscious awareness.
If you are looking for a yoga tool to help you begin or deepen your ability to recognize and engage the Witness, try Yoga Nidra, Yoga Nidra is a systematic method to bring about physical mental and emotional conscious relaxation, and encourage self-awareness. – Beth Gibbs