Student lying in child's pose

Finding Focus

The more I practice yoga the more of its countless benefits I uncover. One advantage I didn’t expect to gain when I first began to practice is the effect it has on my attention, focus, and overall productivity outside of the studio.

At my baseline, I am a scatterbrained mess who can’t leave the apartment without forgetting something. I can’t reliably use self-serve checkouts because I leave behind items that I purchased at the till. I boil water only to let it go cold at least twice before mustering up the mental capital to make tea while it’s still hot. Regrettably, too often does everyday life demand more awareness than I can afford, and for that I am what people can call a big dummy.

The yoga studio is one place where I prove to myself that I can have the focus of a ninja and the intent of a Jedi Knight. I am an on-task, methodical, human laser beam – demonstrating (well, at least attempting to demonstrate) awareness of my body as it relates to space, to my mat, and to my breathing. Each movement, no matter how minute – the placement of each of my fingers and toes, the weight distribution between each contact point with the mat, the tilt of my pelvis, the softening of my face – is just as important as the last… and as the next. Because yoga demands so much of my attention, it allows me let go of anything else that has a habit of crossing my mind. It is this intense focus that actually creates the space for me to be wholly present. Between the myriad microadjustments to make during each pose, concerning which I would be lost without the helpful prompts of our fantastic instructors, it’s difficult to even remain cognizant of my breath, let alone think about anything else outside of the immediate environment.

In the hours following a yoga session, I’m dialed in – knocking off task after task in deliberate fashion.  Boiling water once; making tea. Purchasing items; actually taking them home. My attention and focus improve with taking cognitive rest from the extraneous – the impending issues, the looming deadlines, the unaddressed questions in which the future holds. By focusing on the here and now, I am better equipped to take on the tasks that follow. Making the commitment to get on my mat is the first step, and after that the rest just falls into place.

By Sean Duke
Former Rugby 7’s Athlete and current UBC Med Student