There's a guiding principle in the study of physics called the "observer effect:" by simply observing a situation, you're affecting it.
(It's based on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which has to do with particles and momentum and things I didn't learn in high school. Thanks to my husband for that bit of trivia.)
The best example of this is breathing. You do it thousands of times per day without thinking, but as soon as I ask you to bring your attention to your breath, it changes speed, deepens or gets shallower, and moves from effortless to full on work. In yoga, we're taught to become a witness, to watch without changing, to notice without effort — and that's hard to do! It's what meditation is all about, and it takes practice and discipline.
I want to flip the script. I want you to witness so that you DO bring change. So often we just go through the moves on our mats, flowing through Sun As and Bs, Warriors, and Boats without really putting focus on what's happening. The easiest place to begin is with body parts that we can see: hands, feet, knees. But what happens when I ask you to put some focus on your shoulder blades, or your neck, or your deep core muscles? You have to feel your way into that awareness. And just like if I touched a hand to your belly you'd tense up your abs, your "brain hands" (I'm definitely going to say that at least once) will bring deeper engagement into your poses, giving you a stronger foundation and bringing a sense of purpose into your movement.
If you're ready to try it now, just sit up nice and tall wherever you are. Find length through your spine, and breathe. Focus on the space you're creating between the ribs as you breathe in, and feel those spaces close back up as you let the breath out. Without using your hands to measure, picture the width that your torso is growing with each inhale, and imagine it closing back up as you exhale. Without specifically telling to increase the size of your breaths, I'm sure you started to breathe more deeply and fully. You have to bring some engagement to your abdominal muscles to pull your ribcage closed. You probably felt the tension in your shoulders melt with the rise and fall of your chest. And I'm certain that you at least found some stillness and dropped out, just for a second, from your brain leading the way and let your body take over.
There are countless other ways to bring this into the rest of your life. If you want to eat less sugar, by becoming aware of how much is in your daily diet, you're already making a change. Noticing sunshine, or the fact that it wasn't negative 20 today, brings you closer to nature and your surroundings. And a simple witnessing of your breath reconnects you to your physical being when you feel scattered and lost.
But this has broader implications, too. If you've been following any kind of news lately, you undoubtedly heard about the Times Up movement. Some badass women in entertainment decided to take a stand, raise their voices, and create a legal defense fund for women everywhere who are suffering abuse and discrimination in the workplace. But more importantly, the wide-reaching media campaign surrounding this issue is forcing everyone to acknowledge that it's happening — it's been happening — and we can't close our eyes to it anymore. We can't claim ignorance. We are all aware.And awareness