Why Yoga Makes You Refreshed and Calm

Jonathan Ivry
Inner Fire Yoga Teacher

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I recently came across the concept of “attention residue,” in the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport.  “Attention residue” is a term that describes what happens when we switch our attention rapidly from one focus to another.  It turns out that even after we have turned our attention to something new, our minds are not as quick to catch up, and part of us is still absorbed by what we were previously focused on.  There is a “residue” that lingers and interferes with our ability to give our full attention to the thing (or task or person) at hand. This phenomenon of “attention residue” helps explain that slightly frazzled and distracted feeling that seems particularly acute today, with social media and the near-constant demands on our attention made by our phones and other devices.   

While modern technology provides new ways to command our attention, the problem of attention residue and over-stimulation is not really new.  The ancient yogis were well aware of the perils of the over-excited “monkey mind.” Meditation and yoga emerged as practices to quiet the mind and harness the power of our focused attention.  The yogic term “drishti” refers to the soft, focused gaze (or attention) you bring to a pose, or to any task, really.

One of the special benefits of practicing yoga at Inner Fire is that the heat helps clarify and focus your attention.  When you are dripping sweat and holding a pose, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything other than your physical experience and your breathing.  That peaceful, “rinsed-out” feeling you have after a class at Inner Fire is not just a physical release of tension; it’s the feeling of having washed away any leftover attention residue.  Your mind feels light and refreshed, ready to go back into your life with a clarity of focus, and ideally more mindful of how you want to focus your attention, of how to use the power of your drishti in the rest of your life.