The 'flow state' and how to get there

Regularly entering the "flow state of mind" makes us happier and more relaxed human beings. But how do we know when we're in it and how do we get there?

The flow state

In our often sedentary lives, the mind can feel like it’s running a race. Practising yoga enables us to quieten the mind because we have to focus on so many different things. It's helpful to begin by focussing on the breath but when our ability to concentrate develops, we start to notice the other aspects of the practice - movement, alignment, Bandhas, postures, sequences...

When we find ourselves fully immersed in our yoga practice with a feeling of energized focus, we have entered what is called 'the flow state of mind'. This has been described as a very productive and creative state of mind. Yoga can help to access this meditative state of mind, but running, playing a musical instrument, or any other activity which completely absorbs our focus, can have the same effect. Regularly entering the "flow state" makes us happier, more relaxed human beings.

How do you know when you have entered the 'flow state'?

You’ll know! Your ego withdraws and all else falls away: all there is is you and the activity you are focusing on. You don’t feel sensations like fatigue, hunger or thirst anymore. A sudden vibrant energy is present and you feel at peace, connected and happy. At this point you are in the flow.

A sudden vibrant energy is present and you feel at peace, connected and happy. At this point you are in the flow.

Once the activity is is over, you will feel that the energy slowly leaves you and you may find yourself wondering about how you got there in the first place and how you can get back there?

You may think that it was the activity that got you there, and you are right in that it was the activity that triggered the flow state. But really what you experienced was the bliss of entering a meditative or mindful state of being. Realising it was the mindful state that made you experience the benefits makes it easier to understand that you can enter this blissful state while doing many different activities.

So basically 'flow' is a state of meditation, of mindfulness, that you enter while being absorbed in an activity.

How do you get into the 'flow state'?

Once you understand the 'flow state' you can also understand what you need to get there. Firstly, what are some of the most important qualities we need during the flow state? We can refer to the 5th, 6th and 7th limb of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana

Pratyahara: 

The withdrawal of the senses. This means you have to put some effort into ignoring everything else that has nothing to do with the activity you are wanting to focus on. It might help to take a moment of centering before you start and take a few deep and full breaths to calm the mind and turn it away from distractions.

Dharana:

Pratyahara prepares us for Dharana. Once we have dealt with the distractions we now have to work on our concentration. We learn to slow down the mind through concentrating on one single activity. Practising longer and longer periods of concentration will eventually, naturally lead towards a meditative state of mind.

It’s important here to concentrate on the activity purely for the sake of doing it, with curiosity in the process and how it unfolds right there, right then, without any expectation of a particular outcome.

Dhyana:

This meditative state is an uninterrupted flow of concentration that turns into a state of awareness of and absorption in the present moment as it is. And in this context, it is the awareness of and absorption in the activity you are focussed on.

At this stage you lose awareness of time and become one with what it is you are doing. You have now arrived in the 'flow state'.

You can begin by practising simple activities that are part of your ordinary life, that you don’t mind, or even enjoy doing. You can, for example, choose walking in silence, brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You can also, of course, apply it to things like yoga, dancing or any type of sport.

Once you have some experience with activities you don’t mind, you can then start applying it to activities that you may like less, such as cleaning, sweeping the floor, doing your homework etc.

Just remember these steps:

1. Pause, take a few conscious breaths and turn away from any distractions

2. Concentrate on what you are doing while being fully present in the moment. Remember to practise with curiosity and without any expectations for any results.

3. Make it into a meditative practice while staying alert to the activity. Move deliberately and mindfully and notice the increase of vibrant energy when you go about your activity in this way. When you slip into autopilot, be really interested and curious again in what you are doing. Remember you want to become absorbed in the activity.

Practising any activity this way can turn any ordinary activity or task into an extraordinary and deeply satisfying experience, that gives you, rather than costs you, energy.

So pick an activity and please leave a comment under this article. I'd love to know how it worked out for you!

Love,

Esther

Learn how to flow!

Riding on the wave of the breath, invite yourself into the Flow State with Marlene Henny as your guide. Moving slowly and mindfully through Sun Salutes and standing poses, enjoy the ride!

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