What is the Flow-state?


The Flow- State is the state of optimal human performance.  It is entering the alphas or even the theta state of brain-wave activity, whereby you are fully absorbed yet dettached. It’s the thinking without thinking. It is not just achieving the goal of an activity that is rewarding but carrying out the activity in itself is fulfilling In short flow could be described as a state where attention, motivation and the situation meet, resulting in a kind of productive harmony or feedback. Deliberate practice is required because the flow-state isn’t something that will just come naturally.

The field of positive psychology provide a wealth of insights into the flow state. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi there are 8 key components to entering the state of flow. Within Real Flow Yoga, we consider these components within the framework of our classes.


Milahy Csikszentmihalyi’s 8 elements of flow


1. set clear goals

establish well defined goals that are not confusing or conflicting. An overall goal is required as well as moment-to-moment-goals.

within the context of a yoga class

  • offer a class theme an overall goal would be for the teacher to offer a theme for the class
  • personal intentions invite the students to contemplate the relevance of the theme applied to their own lives and allow them to set an intention that resonates for them that is in line with the theme.
  • sankalpa in yoga nidra. Sankalpa is a positive affirmation set at the start of a deep relaxation.

a moment-to-moment goals would be the yoga postures and mindfulness throughout the yoga practice.


2. feedback

during the activity it is essential to be able to receive immediate feedback so that you know whether your performance is leading towards the goal.

within the context of a yoga class: 

  • alignment queues the teacher can provide verbal and physical instructions which relate to both the physical and energetics within the pose thus directing the students’ attention to their body.
  • make it relatable. It is helpful for the teacher to remind the students to find connections between, and relate the postures back to their intentions and the class theme.
  •  the breath. the teacher continually bringing the student’s attention to the quality of their breath.The breath is an indicator of your state of being, physically energetically, emotionally and energetically. So working with the goal of sustaining smooth even and comfortable deep breath flow is something that can be assessed by the student.  


3. appropriate level of challenge

the task must allow you to be able to receive immediate feedback so that you know whether your performance is leading towards the goal.

real flow yoga- csikszentmihalyi

within the context of a yoga class:

  • class set-up the yoga teacher should thoroughly observe the students at the start of the class, paying attention to their body language and physicality. Also asking students at the start of class whether there are any issues or injuries that affect their practice and also asking the students what their experience level is of yoga


4. focus and concentration

sustained and undivided and undisrupted flow of attention directed and full presence upon your task as your doing it.

  • within the context of a yoga class:  Within Patanjali’s sutra’s there are the 8-limbs of yoga which considers dharana (concentration) to be an essential precursor to meditation. In sanskrit single-pointed focus upon one object is known as Ekagrata. Dharana requires ekagrata. By continually reminding the student to pay attention and enquire into their experience, focus is sustained within the practice.


5. no distractions

no past or present

within the context of a yoga class: the teacher continually offering alignment queues


6. feeling in control

receiving immediate feedback so that you know whether your performance is leading towards the goal.

  • within the context of a yoga class: teacher offering challenging postures


7. loss of ego

sense of self is dissolved

  • within the context of a yoga class: the teacher can remind the students not to compare themselves to others.


8. altered perception of time

there is a sense of time feeling to disappear

  • within the context of a yoga class: rather than the teacher offer counts in the exercises, guide them in length of breaths
Mental state in terms of challenge level and skill level, according to Csikszentmihalyi‘s flow model.


real flow yoga 4 states of flow

C Wilson’s  4 states / stages of flow state


1.  The Struggle Phase. This is the reason why most of people never push themselves because struggle does not feel good. They are unwilling to challenge their self.


2.  The Release Phase. When you accept the struggle and take on the challenge, this is where you start to attain the Release Phase. This release triggers flow state. This is where your brain converts from conscious to subconscious processing.


3.  Flow State. You can be in a low grade flow state or a peak flow state. A low grade flow state is something like doing a minimal task like a video game or creative writing session, where you have intense focus. On the other hand, a peak flow state is something that mostly happens to extreme sports athletes. This is where the athlete is in the zone, on fire, can do anything and is insanely productive.


4.  Brain Rewiring and Memory Consolidation Phase. This is the clatter following the flow state, where your mind and body are rewiring to a higher processing speed. You remember everything that happened during your peak performance and you see the new possibilities that happened during that time. High quality sleep and meditation are important here.


Brain Wave States

real flow yoga flow state brain wavesBeta – Active logical, analytical thinking brain – INTELLECT

Alpha – Relaxed, Imaginative, Fantasizing, Intuitive, Daydream, Visualise using your senses also the Alpha is the bridge between the conscious and the unconscious

Theta -subconscious, dreaming

Delta – like a Radar, very low frequency, you sense whats going on around you, you can empahise with another. Feel what another is feeling, you’re using your delta.  INSTINCTS


“like a closed backpack. It’s up to you if you want to open it or not, as it could contain bad as well as good memories, it could unlock your creativity also. It doesn’t open itself, it’s up to you to open to open it.” Annette Gudde

In FLOW we have access to all of these brain states simultaneously all at once. Literally a flow between all these brain waves and we can feel this as a flow within the body.


The Neurochemistry of the Flow State


what happens to you in a neurochemical level while in a flow state?

your brain and body releases a series of neurochemicals that allow you to focus extensively.


 Norepinephrine – It is the hormone and neurotransmitter most responsible for concentration.

 Dopamine – A neurotransmitter responsible for cognitive alertness.

 Endorphin – Activates the opioid receptor. It makes you feel really good.

–  Serotonin – The mood balancer

 Anandamide – The name is taken from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means “bliss, delight“.

Taken together, these neurochemical changes in the brain provides us with performance-enhancing, pleasure-inducing chemicals.



Triggers to induce the flow-state

So how do we enter the flow-state, access it on demand and sustain it?



‘Flow-Hacks’ by Cedric Dumont


  1. Tough-minded optimism – rely on your skills and past-experiences , using your intellect to discern, and TRUST your instincts and intuition to trust the future outcomes in order to trust the present.
  2. Whole-hearted focus Multi-tasking is killing your productivity by 70% .
  3. Know your priorities Less is more. Be selective with your attention.
  4. Educated Risk Taking willing to take calculated risk. Expand comfort zone.  Including accept some failure (mistakes are part of progress).  When you stop taking risks, you stop living life.



Performance Enhancement Triggers by Steven Kotler


 these triggers drive our attention into the present moment. Build your lives about these triggers.




Passion / Purpose / Risk /Novelty/ Complexity /Unpredictability/ Deep Embodiment /Immediate Feedback /Clear Goals /Challenge /Skill Ratio /Creativity and Pattern Recognition




Close Listening /Shared Goals/ Shared Risk / Complete concentration /A sense of control / autonomy/ Blending Egos/ Familiarity / Equal Participation / Open Communication


Yoga Teachers toolbox for flow


relaxing your jaw and tongue / meditation / improvisation /novel sequencing /challenging postures /music / closing your eyes (alpha can be helped y changing the amount of light that comes into your eyes) / low lighting / candle lights /use all of your senses (music, smells) / connecting to the feelings you’re experiencing during the poses and to recognise your emotion, state of mind and your energy levels /


The flow state takes practice and like all things you can improve your focus by just trying to get into this state on a regular basis. The more you push your boundaries in various fields, the more you grow and the easier it is to jump into a flow based activity.

Benefits of being in Flow
– Flow can be experienced by anyone, regardless of age, background or skillsets—from Japanese grandmothers, to Yosemite rock climbers, to Korean motorcycle gang members, to your friend on Etsy.
– The revolution happening right under our noses where people spend $4 trillion dollars on the Altered States Economy—buying products, chemicals and experiences that give us a brief moment outside ourselves. Flow does it naturally.
– How to enter the flow state on command, where your performance, creativity and problem solving spike by as much as 400%.
– How to wire your nervous system for Flow, which releases five of the most potent neurochemicals for motivation, learning and well-being—norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide and oxytocin.
– How you can cut down the path to mastery in half while learning new skills in flow, so you can take what you learn from this course to accelerate your learning on everything you do from here on out.
– Why the people who report having the most Flow in their lives also report having the highest overall life satisfaction of any population on the planet.
– How to keep going even when you feel like quitting, and develop the understanding that you’re really on the verge of breaking through to a whole new level of being.
– New proven methods to relax, redirect and creatively solve life’s challenges, when your initial approach doesn’t work.
– How to finally silence your inner-monologue that constantly undermines your efforts, actually get into the Zone and learn how to stay there.
– How to move through from one challenge to the next effortlessly, while having plenty of time to deeply recharge.
– The most common things that keep people out of flow or knock them out of it when they do get there, so you can live your life ‘in the pocket’ without risking losing your rhythm.
– That you finally feel like you have enough time or energy to do what you want to, so you can do what you have to and still have an abundance of energy left over for the rest of the pleasures of life.
– Your own tangible direct experience of your own deepest truth and joy, without judgement or dogma telling you what the experience is or isn’t.


Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play. Jossey-Bass
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. HarperCollins
Good Business. Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning. Viking
Creativity. Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. HarperCollins
The Evolving Self. A Psychology for the Third Millenium. HarperCollins