Working with Attention in Yoga Practice
Attention is a tool for holding and distributing energy. By singling out a particular part of our body with our attention, we direct energy to that specific part. That is the general rule: energy goes where attention goes. Whatever we direct our attention to, that is what develops, widens, and grows.
If we do this consciously—with a clear understanding of our energy system's current state, intentionally choosing the vectors of attention that suit us personally with the set goal of intensifying the function of insufficiently active chakras and weakening the hyperactive chakras—then there will be no issue.
But if we direct our attention unconsciously, as an automatic response, to a specific part of the body—such as where we feel pain or where our life has made our attention follow a rut—we risk overstraining energy areas that are already strained to the limit. Before singling out a separate area with our attention, we need to know its exact condition and sense whether it has an excess or lack of energy, which is difficult even for experienced practitioners. Here are a few example of a disharmonious combination of certain chakras:
If a person has a lot of energy in the sixth, Ajna Chakra (brow), while the first, Muladhara Chakra (perineum), has almost none, that person starts to live more in their own fantasy world than in reality and will often get lost there. This energy imbalance can lead to the development of mental issues and, in the worst-case scenario, serious psychological pathologies. On the other hand, an approximately equal, balanced amount of energy in both Ajna (Intuition, Insight) and Muladhara (Grounding) provide the person with the ability to simultaneously use the extraordinary capabilities and information from the subtle planes while clearly seeing reality and not losing contact with it.
Another example: you will get no benefit from a large amount of energy in the fourth, Anahata Chakra (heart), responsible for love and sensitivity of the heart, while having little energy in the Manipura Chakra (stomach), responsible for a healthy sense of one's own Self, energy centering, and self-confidence. On the contrary, such a person will be so "warm-hearted," caring, and empathetic towards other people that they will then forget to take care of themselves and start to lose their Self. There is a multitude of such examples.
Our body is an energy vessel with a relatively constant amount of energy. If too much of it flows to one end of the vessel, the opposite end empties. The same is true of the human body: if we overstress the development of a single chakra, we strain it, meanwhile robbing other chakras of their energy. When we do this, we nurture one part of our identity at the expense of others. The safest and most effective method of working with attention in yoga practice is to distribute attention evenly throughout the body's mass—a process known as "Mass Attention"—which ensures an even distribution of energy in the energy system.
When applying the principle of Mass Attention during asanas, we do not dictate where we think the energy should go. Instead, we distribute it evenly throughout the body. In this way, our minds do not interfere with the process, instead allowing the body's wisdom to do its work, turning on the processes of natural energy distribution and self-healing. Even and harmonious energy distribution in the energy structure is the foundation for physical, energetic, and mental health. It is much better to have 30% energy in each of the chakras than to have 90% in one and 10% in another.
The practice of Mass Attention during yoga allows us to be sure that we are not harming ourselves, that the energy we have is being balanced and harmonized and not distributed unevenly, thus creating or exacerbating existing imbalances. It allows us to be sure that the new energy generated in the body during practice by the piezoelectric effect is also being distributed evenly, instead of automatically being wasted on the support of ingrained imbalances and unconscious destructive mental patterns.
Thus, the use of Mass Attention during yoga practice allows the body to solve existing problems, prevents the creation of potential problems, and is the only 100% safe (and therefore most correct) method for manipulating energy. All other methods are beneficial only if the person knows the exact state of their energy system and what would suit them personally, individually. Another important plus for using Mass Attention in yoga practice is that it is the fastest method for developing energy vision and a sense of the subtle bodies.
When we enter an asana with our attention directed at all parts of our body simultaneously and develop this kind of attention hold our sensory perception of the body's energetics turns on. With time, we become capable of distinguishing previously unknown energy reactions, such as where in the body the energy feels denser, where there is less of it, what body parts "try to escape" our attention, and so on. This shifts our yoga practice to a qualitatively different, deeper level.
Typically, the extremities – legs and arms – "try to escape" our attention, since evolutionary safety considerations developed our attention to remain in the center, by the heart and vital organs, instead of at the periphery. This was to help ensure survival and is why, when photographing auras, you can so often see that their edges are uneven, ragged, as the energy dissipates as it moves farther from the center.
In modern humans, whose lifestyle is oversaturated with information and various stresses, another common example of imbalance is an energy "overload" in the head area. Even when practicing, the person cannot turn off the active abstract thought process, and all their attention is in the head instead of the body.
By returning attention and energy to the extremities, as well as by redirecting attention from the head to the entire body, we distribute both the energy we have and the new energy that accumulates from the piezoelectric effect during practice, spreading it evenly throughout the body, and we can be sure that it will not automatically go toward supporting our already ingrained, subconscious mental patterns. As we develop our control of Mass Attention and, consequently, of our energy-sense perception, we become capable of not just realizing, but also consciously managing and directing our enery by changing our physical body's position in space.
Our sense perception becomes sufficiently developed to realize exactly how the asana should be structured in space, exactly how you should move your foot or twist your torso in physical reality, relative to other body parts and to space, in order for the body's energy to flow freer, smoother, more balanced. We begin to "feel" our body how its movement in space changes our internal energy state and which movements of the physical body are correct and which are not. We start to understand which position of the physical body will be the most full of energy, the strongest energetically. We develop a sense and vision of the energy body. We see ourselves from the inside; we become a learned Teacher for ourselves, a sense of which is many times greater than the knowledge of any external yoga teachers who do not have such a deep and direct understanding of what is going on inside our bodies and minds.
Mastering Mass Attention is best begun in the simplest, static position: Tadasana.
Distribute your attention in this pose throughout the entire body simultaneously, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, and keep it even so that no body part "protrudes" from this mass or "falls out" of it. Our attention turns from a narrow beam, directed at (and singling out for perception) a single body part, to a wide cluster of light, encompassing the entire body evenly and simultaneously. Fixed in this practice of Mass Attention, and trying not to lose it, move slowly into the next asana. With time, the entire practice will become a single, continuous, and total process of Awareness in movement. An Awareness that will inevitably transfer to your daily function: you will lose unconscious, useless, and energy-wasting micro-movements and gain a continuous awareness of your self and your manifestations while walking, eating, conversing. Your awareness of everything that comes in contact with you will also grow: other people, objects, products, places, and their energy influence on you.