Think you can win a staring contest with a goldfish?

Think again.

According to a study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to a mere 8 seconds in 2013. Anyone want to guess how long our gilled pop-eyed competitor can hold its attention? Nine seconds! Now that’s not what I’d call a landslide victory but we, Big-Brained-Cognitive-Thinking-Mammals, are being compared to a teensy brained fish who is notorious for its inability to focus.

Scientists believe that our decreasing ability to focus our attention on a single task is directly linked to the increase in content marketing (external stimulation) produced and distributed via social media. Since the year 2000 there has been a tidal wave of new social media channels.

Linkedin    2003

Facebook  2004

YouTube    2005

Twitter      2006

Pinterest    2010

Instagram 2010

Snap Chat 2011

Are you still reading? I think it’s been about 8 seconds….

If so, stay with me.

Now if you’ve read my previous blogs, you know I can ramble on. I have a lot to say! But with the realization no one is probably making it through the first paragraph of my blogs, I’ve considered changing my approach and do my best to keep my blogs more concise, or at least break them down into digestible parts in hopes that you’ll be able to get the full, intended value. However, I won’t guarantee that you’ll be able to read it in 8 seconds!

Of course this also got me to thinking on how all this relates to Yoga.

In the U.S. we spent an average of 11 HOURS a day on electronic media devices (which includes TV, Smartphone, Gaming, Radio, Computer and other electronic devices). I’m not disputing that there is great value in utilizing technology to keep us connected, but I do believe it’s possible to use some portion of those 11 hours to something more productive, say….our yoga practice?

A strong attention span is absolutely crucial for achievement of our goals and to stay on task and on our path moving forward. Yoga is known to help us do just that, by strengthening our ability to stay focused, clear, calm and steady.

Now, most yogis love the free flowing movements of the physical practice, I know I do, but we must be careful and pay attention to what we are paying attention to in our practice. Do we love the constant movement of a Vinyasa-style class because it feels like meditation in motion or is it really only masking how busy our minds are as we quickly move from one pose to another?

And once we come to our seat, how still are we?

Have you ever tried to sit in a forward bend (Paschimottanasana) for 60 seconds, 90 seconds, two minutes (15 times longer than our 8 second average!) without moving a muscle? No wiping of sweat, no picking the nail polish off your big toe, hair or lint off your mat. Just breath, stillness and relaxed awareness.

Hell, in writing this blog, I’ve already gotten distracted no less than 8 times – getting up from my desk to grab a drink, a snack, put the laundry in, go to the bathroom, text message 5 or more messages, do a quick web search or two….

But with awareness comes more determination to rebuild brain muscle as I would any other muscle in my body that has become weakened from neglect.

Yoga is a systematic approach that can help us achieve greater clarity and focus. If we utilize the asanas to temper the body, refine the mind through our pranayama practice, and bring our senses under control with our meditation practice, we can begin to cultivate deeper states of concentration and inner awareness.

So I invite you to find more time in your day to hold those postures without flinching, tap into the power of your breath to quell the erratic nature of the mind and to sit in meditation 5 minutes longer than usual, and pay attention to what you are paying attention to.

You have all the tools you need to hone the strength of concentration and empower yourself to stay focused on your goals and not get lost in the dense forests of social media. Use only what you need and get back on path and stare that goldfish down.

And let me know how it goes.


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