Checking your phone again? Try this instead.

by Sondra Matara

pssssst! Did you know that cell phones and other wearable technology aren’t allowed in class with you? (if you are on-call for medical reasons, please discuss with your teacher prior to class). Yoga is a practice of connection…and DISconnecting with our phones for 60-90 minutes is great for mind, body, and soul. Need some help with letting go? Read on!

I just spent the last four hours working on trying on fixing some computer issues. Four. Hours. And the time just flew by. I can’t remember the last time I was so absorbed by something that I had such one-pointed concentration for so long. The ability to focus so acutely on one thing is the first step in successful meditation, and is called dharana (one of the eight limbs of yoga) in Sanskrit. In today’s world, where we all feel the impulse to constantly be reaching for our phones, looking at our Facebook feed, and checking our email, the ability to concentrate is increasingly more difficult and rare. Lucky for us, though, it’s also something we can practice.

The brain is a muscle, and just like we exercise our bodies during an asana (yoga posture) practice, we can also work on improving our dharana. Sometimes we can achieve this focus with asana alone, but it’s also good to really hone in on cultivating this as a stand-alone practice. The next time you have a few minutes to spare and you feel the urge to reach for your phone for the 100th time that day, don’t. Try this instead.

Sit where you can see outside if you’re not there already. Pick four objects at roughly equal distances from you, starting at your feet and ending at the farthest distance you can see. Look at each for 60 seconds or so, really concentrating on the object. Think about where the object came from, how it got there. What it might feel like. Its purpose. Then move to the next object, going further away from you. When you get to the fourth object, reverse the order until you’re back at your feet. Notice how often you feel distracted by other thoughts or the urge to look at your phone. Notice those distractions and let them go without judgment; just go back to your object focus. Finished? Now your brain is stronger! You’ve reinforced neural connections that support concentration. So much more productive than checking to see what your friend’s dinner looks like or the hundredth terrible political news story today.

When was the last time you were able to focus and just lose all sense of time? Bet you didn’t even know you were practicing yoga… 😉

(And if you’re looking for even more help with those distractions, try this.)


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