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The Practice of Paying Attention

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

“The mind is capable of having two states based on two distinct tendencies. These are distraction and paying attention. At any one moment, however, only one state prevails, and this state influences the individual’s behaviour, attitudes and expressions.”

- The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali


As my journey as a yoga teacher and student progresses, I journey further inwards, my understanding of myself deepens and my practice, on and off the mat, develops. As always this practice on the mat is reflected off the mat and the two become inextricably linked.

The more I practice the more the message of yoga becomes clear for me; Yoga is the practice of living with attention and intention.

When we practice yoga we have the opportunity to still our minds and focus on the present moment. We can put to one side all of our to-do lists and challenge ourselves to focus on one pose at a time. To focus our mind we close our eyes and turn our attention inwards. We make our world into the dimensions of our yoga mat and we can move into the moment and connect with our breath and our bodies. With this attention we can learn to move with a heightened connection to the task and a sense of intention.

For me this practicing with attention and intention is what makes yoga into more than a physical practice, it transforms yoga into a way of life. By paying attention to the way I move, breathe and what I feel on my yoga mat I am lead into a greater awareness of how I feel and behave in my life.


Don’t misunderstand me - this is not always a simple process. Our everyday lives are made to provide us with constant distractions; social media, television, an ethos of “busy-ness” often make it impossible to focus and pay attention. Even now I can lose hours by scrolling on my phone without intention and awareness and realise at the end of that that this experience has not helped me understand or achieve anything of value.


If any of you know me at all you probably know that my normal (i.e pre-Covid19) life is incredibly busy. With three children, two dogs, two jobs there is always something to be doing, somewhere to be going, something to be planning/arranging/organising. Practicing the art of paying attention and living with intention whilst juggling all of these balls often seems completely unachievable.


It would be easy to say that I will commit to “do less” and live more simply however, in my opinion it is too simplistic to see just “doing less” as the answer to the modern life conundrum. To me this seems like a way to bypass the responsibilities that we have without doing our inner work.


Instead I have learned that if I juggle these balls mindfully, with attention and awareness there can be gifts in the mundane, the everyday and the obligations.


Instead of doing less, I try to do everything whilst paying attention. Where possible I try to make sure that I understand the intention of every action or task I undertake, be that washing the dishes, helping with homework or planning a holiday. I ask myself, “what is my intention in this moment?”, “what is happening here that needs my attention?” This process has helped me to understand my behaviours, my reactions to situations and recognise those moments when I function without attention and as a result quite often without joy.


Of course, this is a work in progress, I am not (and will never be) perfect and quite often I find myself becoming distracted but my practice is teaching me to notice those moments, to adjust my behaviours where I can and to move back into a state of attention and intention.


This attention, intention and awareness are something that I aim to share in my classes. For now I challenge you to take small steps towards making your life into a practice of paying attention in every moment; as you drink your coffee, as you load the dishwasher, as you brush your teeth and as you get on your mat. Ask yourself;

  • How am I feeling in this moment?

  • What do I need right now?

  • What do I need to pay attention to?

  • What is my intention for this moment?

Perhaps take the time to write this down in a journal or on your phone’s notes page. See if you can notice any patterns, thoughts or behaviours arising and think about any changes that you might want or need to make.

I believe that by paying attention in every moment the experience becomes more enjoyable; be it yoga practice, household chores or writing a blog post, acting with attention and intention will offer a sense of satisfaction, fulfilment and often joy.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, share your comments in the box below.


With love,


Sarah.x

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