We live in a short attention span society. Between the hours most of us spend in front of the television and the time we spend online, our ability to concentrate is practically under siege on a daily basis.
Yoga is a great way to improve concentration, just by its nature. Working a few of the postures and breathing exercises below into your practice can help boost your power to focus even more!
1. Salutation Seal
This simple breathing exercise is a great way to start your practice. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, bring your hands into prayer position. Try to quiet your mind, focusing instead on inhaling and exhaling deeply while keeping your spine nice and straight. Salutation seal really helps bring focus to the rest of your practice….it’s so centering!
2. Alternate Nostril Breathing
Another breathing exercise, practicing alternate nostril breathing for a couple of minutes can really help clear your mind. Like with salutation seal, you’ll sit cross legged. Hold your right hand with your palm in front of your face, and fold down your pointer and middle fingers. Before you inhale, use your thumb to hold your right nostril closed. Hold onto that breath, then release the right nostril and use your ring finger to hold your left nostril closed as you exhale.
Now, inhale while still holding the left nostril closed, then switch nostrils to exhale. Repeat this cycle for a couple of minutes to focus your mind and clear your head of distracting thoughts.
Up Next: Balancing to improve concentration.
3. Tree Stand
Balance poses are excellent for concentration! You can do tree stand in a number of ways, but to start stand up straight with your hip distance apart. Bend your right knee and grab hold of your right knee with both hands. Once you feel like you have your balance, move your grasp so you’re holding your right foot, and slowly place that foot on your left thigh with the toes pointed toward the floor. Move your hands into prayer, and breathe here for about 30 seconds.
If you feel balanced with your hands in prayer, you can move them over your head and either hold them with your arms straight and palms facing each other or place your palms together over your head.
Repeat this on your left side.
4. Crane Pose
This is another balancing posture, but this time you’re balancing on your arms. Start out in a squat with your feet hip distance apart. Move your legs so that your shins are right in line with your armpits, then place your palms on the floor in front of you. Ever so slowly, tilt your weight forward. The idea here is to get your feet off the floor, so you’re balancing fully on your hands.
Crane pose is a bit tricky, but if you keep at it, the payoff is so worth it. Not only does this help with concentration, but it’s so gratifying when this posture finally clicks.
5. Seated Forward Bend
A gentle forward bend goes a long way toward quieting the mind. To do this simple posture, sit on the floor with your feet out in front of you and a straight back. Inhale, and lift your arms above your head, stretching your spine. On your exhale, fold forward at your hips, reaching toward your feet. Grab your leg wherever you can reach – knees, shins, or feet – then just relax and breathe here for up to 30 seconds.
Up Next: Bending and reclining to improve concentration.
6. Camel Pose
Backward bending is about facing our fears, which goes a long way toward quieting those distracting thoughts in our heads. Start sitting on your knees, then raise your bottom off of your feet, so your thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Place your hands on your lower back, then inhale and arch back slowly, letting your head hang gently backwards.
If you feel comfortable there, you can take camel pose to the next level by taking your hands off of your back and grabbing your right foot with your right hand and left foot with the left hand. Stay here for 10-12 deep breaths.
Regardless of how far you take the pose, make sure you move your hands to support your lower back as you come out of it, and come up slowly. Your head should be the last thing you straighten.
7. Reclining Hero Pose
Relaxation poses help you focus in a way similar to some of the breathing exercises. Sit on your knees, then move your feet apart slowly until your bottom is on the floor. Inhale and straighten your spine, then exhale as you lean backwards. The idea here is to relax your back onto the floor. Lay your arms at your sides, palms facing upward and focus on taking deep breaths. You can hold this pose for 30 seconds or up to five full minutes.
If this is too much on your knees, you can try savasana instead. Rather than laying with your knees bent, just lay on your back with your legs straight out and feet hip distance apart. Relax, breathe, and clear your mind.
Do you guys have any favorite yoga postures for improving concentration? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by grahamking