What is flow? Flow is one of those things that you can feel, but it sometimes difficult to articulate. When you are in genuine flow, there is a seamlessness to your movement and thoughts. There are no sharp edges or jagged lines. Anxiety, burnout, or tailspinning does not exist. There is just calm and peace. There is effortless movement connected to effortless breath. You are one with your environment. You are fully and completely in the moment. There is nothing else, just you in your body, aware of nothing else. That is flow.
I have felt this flow when practicing yoga and while swimming. Maybe you have found it while knitting, or reading, or running, or skiing. Everyone has a place where they feel or have felt flow, but sometimes it’s hard to let go enough to get there.
What is the benefit of flow?
You might be asking yourself, why flow matters, why is this something you want to attain in your life. Most of us have stressful lives, full of deadlines, to do lists, people wanting things of us. This is the complete opposite of flow. Stress is squeezing, tightening, shrinking, scrunching. Your breath gets shallow and short, your muscles contract, it can be difficult to think straight or clearly. Flow is open, spacious, smooth, easy. Your breath is calm, deep and long. Your muscles relax and you feel more comfortable in your skin. Creativity pours out, wisdom rises to the surface, your thoughts are clear.
That sounds better to me, how about you?
Being in genuine flow means that there are no perceived obstacles in your way. Obstacles might exist, but they are not in your purview. You are deeply connected to whatever you are doing, whether you are swimming and flowing through the water like a dolphin, or flowing on the yoga mat with strength and ease. You might be washing the dishes, feeling the sensation of the water and soap on your hands and your feet on the floor. The activity is less important than being fully present. It is a meditative flow and can be found at any time by anyone.
How to Flow
The easiest way to flow is through connection to your breath. If you are aware of your breath, you are present. Anxiety lives in the future, and shame and regret live in the past. In the present, with your breath, there is only peace and flow. If you are aware of your breath, that doesn’t mean you need to breathe in any particular way, you can just let your body breathe for you and notice. Feel the breath as it moves in and out, then notice your movements as you breath.
When you are swimming, feel your hands cutting through the water then moving it behind you. If you are walking, breathe in for 2-3 steps and then out for 2-3 steps. When you are practicing yoga, connect each breath to each movement. If you are doing something else, allow your breath to move you. The point is you are breathing, and noticing each moment as it rises and falls. There are no intrusive thoughts, there is only flow.
Try this: Stand on a yoga mat. Slowly and mindfully, walk back and forth between the front and back of the mat. Every time you step with your right foot, inhale. When you step with your left foot, exhale. Continue doing this until it feels natural to connect your breath to your steps. If you don’t have a yoga mat, you can just walk down a hallway, or around your living space. The goal is to be fully aware of breathing and moving at the same time.
Flow as Meditation
If you have ever practiced meditation, you might notice a similarity to flow and meditation. They are similar, in that they are a mindfulness practice that is bringing your awareness to what is happening right now. Flow is the experience of a meditative state. When you are flowing, in movement or stillness, you are tapping into that feeling of calm and spaciousness that exists in all of us. When we learn to put down our stress and anxiety, through practices like swimming, yoga, running, bicycling, meditation, etc, we can embrace the softness and love that is our natural state.
Flow allows us to let go of our self-criticism, self-doubt, self-loathing, and general self-meanness and instead just be with what is. No judgements, no shame, no regrets. Only joy, love, calm, and this moment.
Find your flow with Jen Dutton and myself during Yoga and Swimming, on Saturday, June 10 at Lake Cochituate in Wayland, MA! Click here for more information or to sign up!
Join me every Monday at 8am ET for Movement and Meditation, live online! 20 minutes of gentle, flowing yoga movements to wake up the body, then 20 minutes of both guided and silent meditation to just be. The perfect start to your week! Click here to sign up!
To dive a bit deeper into your yoga practice, spend the weekend with me on retreat in Plainfield, MA, August 18-21! We practice daily yoga and meditation, plus walking in the woods, some time by the water, and community with a wonderful, warm welcoming bunch of yogis over 50! Click here for more information!