In A Treatise of Human Nature, the philosopher David Hume said, “consciousness is a beam or a collection of different perceptions which succeed each other with an inconceivable speed.” In modern society, our beam or collection of different perceptions is asked to increase in intensity and to go faster than ever before. We are a society built for instant gratification.
It has never been easier for large scale social comparison (ability to compare ourselves to others) as well as geographic and relational mobility (ability to move around the world as well as create new, and let go of old, relationships). We are a generation told we can do it all, so we feel like we have to do it all.
It is no surprise that at some point we feel like we need a break. It is common to want to disconnect and detach. It is harder to pause and let go of the excess noise in our lives so we can focus, so we can concentrate on what is important to us.
Yoga for Concentration
Our concentration is constantly tugged in various directions and is often hindered by aging and stress. The benefits of yoga are to maintain the concentration level you have now as well as increase your ability to concentrate. Yoga invites you to live your life with intention with every cell in your body participating as a unit to foster mindfulness and concentration.
Concentration is a powerful energy. When we think something unhappy, it is easy to become unhappy in our thoughts, feelings, and actions. When we focus on the positive and on non-attachment, we can liberate ourselves from the mundane and strengthen our ability to concentrate.
Yoga works to relax the mind and body so we can think more clearly, and in time increase our ability to concentrate. As the wise yogic sage Patanjali stated in the Yoga Sutras, “yoga is the reduction of fluctuations of the mind” or “stilling the natural turbulences of our thoughts.” A regular yoga practice helps us concentrate.
Food for Thought for Manifesting Concentration
- Whatever pose you avoid most may be the pose you need most. However, if your body is signaling to avoid something because of pain, listen to your body, because it is your best teacher.
- Practicing in loose fitting clothing and on an empty stomach fosters ease in breathing and movement.
- Options for music: practice in silence, practice zoning out music, or practice mindfully listening to only the music.
Poses for Concentration
Unlike trees that utilize gravity to help nourish their roots, we have to defy gravity as we nourish our brain and lungs. Practicing inversions balances our nervous system, promotes a rich supply of blood to flow into the brain, relieves mental and emotional stress, aids in tissue regeneration, and weighs our abdominal organs on the diaphragm to lengthen each exhale so more carbon dioxide is released.
Inversions include Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani), Crown-Based Throne (Moordhasana), Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), and the king of all asansas -- Headstand (Sirsasana).
Balancing by nature requires concentration. Simple poses like Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and Tree Pose (Vrksasana) can train our abilities to concentrate. Eagle Pose (Garudasana) is revered for its ability to help build core, leg, and arm strength, as well as increase our ability to concentrate.
Seated poses are helpful after meals because they restrict blood flow to the legs (warning: not helpful if pregnant) which enhances digestive functions. Seated poses also help increase concentration, as holding the body balanced for a long period of time applies pressure to the lower spine, which has a relaxing effect on the nervous system.
It is often easier to notice the physical sensation and the breath first. Awareness and increased concentration comes in time and practice.
Some poses to increase concentration are Lotus Pose (Padmasana), Seated Mountain Pose (Parvatasana), Hero's Pose (Virasana), Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana), and Intoxicating Bliss Pose (Ananda Madirasana).
Pranayama for Concentration
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama: Three-part breath control which consists of alternating nostril breathing; helps focus and clear clogged sinuses as well as a clogged mind.
Udgeeth Pranayama: Chanting breath harnesses the power of OM to relax and boost concentration; focusing on the exhale helps release toxic energy and built up carbon dioxide.
Bhramari Pranayama: Do Humming Bee Breath by closing the ears with the index fingers, lips lightly closed, teeth slightly parted, and hum while focusing on the exhale. Helps relieve stress and cerebral tension and increase internal awareness and concentration.
10-Minute Asana Flow for Concentration
Start in a seated crisscross, Half Lotus, or Full Lotus with an optional block underneath the hips.
Practice 5-10 rounds of Nadi Shodhana pranayama by closing one nostril, then the other as you breathe.
Switch to the other leg in front for crisscross, Half Lotus, or Full Lotus, and allow the arms to extend toward the sky or heart center for Seated Mountain Pose.
Practice 5-10 chants of Udgeeth pranayama, or OM.
Slowly stand up, allowing blood to flow back into the legs. Step the feet wider than hip distance apart and bring the arms to rest below the shoulders in reverse prayer, or interlaced and lowering to the ground behind the back for Crown Based Throne Pose.
Stay here for 5-10 deep breaths.
Slowly lift the upper body and walk the feet in hip distance apart or closer, and begin to lift for Eagle Pose with the right thigh over the left, and right arm under the left for 3-5 breaths.
Then switch left thigh over the right, and left arm under the right for 3-5 breaths.
Unwind the arms and legs and shake it out before practicing Headstand.
If you are new to headstands or want to rest a bit, practice up against a wall or practice Headstand prep where you keep your toes on the mat.
From a kneeling positing, bring the crown of your head to the ground with your hands interlaced behind your head. Lift the hips up to the sky and begin to walk the feet in, until you feel your spine stacking straight.
Engage the core, and carefully lift one leg, then the other.
Practice with caution, come out of the pose slowly, and make sure to listen to your body.
Rest in Child's Pose after Headstand, and when you are ready, lay down, and reap the nectar from your practice in a Savasana for as long as you like (and then maybe an extra minute) to help build patience, gratitude, and concentration.
Did you try this sequence for concentration? What did you think? How has yoga helped with your concentration? Share with us in the comments below!