During yoga practice a variety of distractions may come into your awareness. External distractions can be particularly, well, distracting. Most people try to find a quiet, calm space in which to practice, but there are few spaces completely devoid of distractions.

For example, if there is a mirror in the room, you may find that you check yourself out—or you check out others in the room—while you practice. If music is played during class, you might hear a song you don’t like that brings up distracting emotions. If you practice at a yoga studio located on a busy road, the sound of cars passing by may throw you off track. The tick-tock of a clock in the room during savasana may drive you crazy. The teacher’s voice may not be pleasing to you. The possibilities for finding distraction are endless.

Distractions such as the ones mentioned may cause you to not want to practice at that location. You may seek a different studio, or a different teacher, or a different time of day, etc. But these distractions can serve to be your greatest teachers. It has been said that one should be able to practice yoga in Times Square without distraction. Even as the world is moving around us, during practice we remain focused with our mind seated in the moment, distractions and all.

The next time you find an external distraction during your yoga practice, use it as a tool. When you find that its presence brings up feelings of aversion, simply notice that your mind has become distracted—even agitated, perhaps—and gently guide your attention to your breath. As you bring your awareness inward, you will find that the external distractions melt away. In this way, your relationship to distractions can completely change.

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