We hear the word "Flow" a lot in the yoga world. But what does it really mean? Moving from posture to posture gracefully with the breathe is one way I hear it described. But that doesn't quite hit the nail on the head as far as the experience of being in the "Flow" goes. The feeling that nothing else in the world matters except for what's happening in the present moment is far beyond our physical experience.
Positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, talks about in his book "Flow" the three elements that have to be present in order to experience "Flow".
1. There has to be a goal
2. There has to be feedback
3. There has to be a balance of challenge and putting one's mad skills to use
Now let's just call him MC from here on out. MC actually observed and researched rock climbers to come up with the three Flow elements which is considered by him and his follower's "the optimal human state". But we can easily apply these to our yoga practice and see that's exactly what is happening when we are in a yogic state of bliss, we are in the flow. We come to a yoga class with an intention (goal), we are constantly receiving feedback from our body, nervous system and environment, and we love to be challenged but not to the point of frustration. When this is all happening then we say, damn, that was a good practice. Can't wait to do it again.
Next time you step on your mat, remember these three elements. Be clear, at why you're on your mat. It's okay to have a goal in yoga. Really, it's okay. We need to have a destination, especially in a home practice, or we will lose focus and interest and completely miss out on the opportunity to be in our FLOW. The feedback loop of your body, nervous system, and environment is all there for you. All you have to do have is pay attention. That information will set you up to self-regulate which is what MC is talking about when he says there's has to be a challenge to skill ratio. AND to be able to self-regulate in your yoga practice is the most satisfying experience offered in the Hatha Yoga practice, in my opinion. To know and trust one's self so completely and embody that on the mat, no matter what class, teacher, or style is pure enjoyment of the SELF.
So do this:
1. set your intention
2. pay attention
3. Self -regulate
Final thought: Find a teacher who is not the boss of you but holds space for you. I know that "holding space" can seem obscure but you'll know it when it's being done.