Developing mindfulness and focus with yoga

Developing mindfulness and focus with yoga


The regular practice of yoga, no matter what school, will cultivate mindfulness and develop concentration. For that matter, any form of exercise that emphasises repetitive movements and breathing (such as running), will help you achieve concentration and focus.

With yoga, this can be achieved through the practice of the fifth limb of Ashtanga Yoga, which is Pratyahara. It is the withdrawal from the senses. In a practical sense, the asanas and pranayama will help us synchronise our body with our mind. It will also train the mind to remain at one point, rather than jumping from thought to thought, which takes us from one activity to another. The main component of this practice is gaze, or drishti, the practice of the steady gaze.

To practise this technique you will need a candle, table and a bolster.

Place the bolster on the floor and sit on it in a cross-legged position. Place the table arm-distance away. Light the candle and place it on the table.

Focus on your breath and start to gaze at the flame without blinking. Hold for 60 seconds.

Close your eyes and visualize the flame at the point between your eyebrows.

Open your eyes and repeat for two more rounds.

Now sit with your eyes closed, focused on the breath.

Benefits: This is a yogic cleansing technique to clear the eyes and mind. Regular practice will enhance a single-point focus.

Mindful meditation

Sit on the floor or the a chair making sure that the spine is held upright, shoulders, forehead, and facial muscles relaxed.

Focus on the breath and sit in stillness, observing the stay of the mind. Now mentally start to count your breathe backwards, from 50 to 1. Inhale and exhale 50; inhale and exhale 49 and so on.

While you do this, you may miss a count as the mind will move away to a thought. Begin from 50 again. In the beginning, the mind will wonder a lot, but with practice, focus and concentration will improve.

Vrksasana (tree pose)

Stand with the feet together or hip distance apart. Ground the feet; tuck the tail bone down towards the earth and the pelvis in towards the body, creating an extension through the spine, keeping its natural curvature. Roll the shoulders towards the ears and drop them down towards the hips. Focus on the breath.

Put all the body weight on the left leg and lift the right leg off the floor. Bend the knee and place the foot in the crook of the left inner thigh or you could place the foot a little lower. Join the palms together in a namastey position or keep them on the waist.

Fix your gaze Drishti at a point on the wall or floor and hold the pose for 10 breaths, keeping the drishti and breathing smoothly.

Release and repeat on the other side.

Benefits: The regular practise of this poses improves balance, bringing stability and improving concentration.

https://www.istockphoto.com/in/photo/tree-pose-gm496192997-41473838

https://www.istockphoto.com/in/photo/yoga-tree-position-gm174870109-23206990

Stand with the feet together or hip distance apart. Ground the feet; tuck the tail bone down towards the earth and the pelvis in towards the body, creating an extension through the spine, keeping its natural curvature. Roll the shoulders towards the ears and drop them down towards the hips. Focus on the breath.

Inhale; bend the knees and allow the hips to sink down as if you are sitting on a chair. Exhale; bend the elbows and place them on the hips.

Inhale; lift the right foot off the floor and transfer the entire body weight on the left foot. Hook the right foot around the left calf muscle or just touch the toes around the calf muscles. Continue to keep your gaze fixed in a point of focus in the front.

Lift the arms and cross the right elbow across the left as if you are giving yourself a hug. Hook the elbows and press them down towards the chest. Open the palms and join them together. If this is not possible then join the backs of the hands together.

Keep your eyes fixed at a point of focus and hold the pose breathing deeply for 10 breaths.

Release and repeat on the other side.

Benefit: Regular practice of this pose improves focus and strength, brings balance and concentration.

Seema Sondhi discovered yoga when she suffered three lumbar slipped discs and was advised complete bed rest. Over the last 18 years, she has trained and been certified from the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre and Matthew Sweeney. She has also written six books on the subject





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