“Concentration is taking your mind off many things and putting it on one thing at a time.” – Ananda Sangha
Imagine what you could do if you could concentrate better. You could use your time more efficiently. You could more easily finish tasks and projects. Perhaps you could even lose that all-familiar feeling of being overwhelmed.
Today, many of us are easily distracted, and there is so much to distract us. We live in a fast paced world, so jam-packed with over-stimulation, activity, information and multi-tasking, that our bodies are now permanently stuck in a state of hyperactivity and our brains seem to have forgotten how to concentrate. As a result, we have more stress and anxiety than ever before.
Doctors, and society in general, easily blame the lack of concentration and the resulting anxiety and stress on “chemical imbalances in the brain,” and the solution is often to prescribe ADHD and ADD medicines to anyone frustrated with or challenged by poor concentration. But perhaps there is a simpler and less invasive solution towards a more focused mind and balanced lifestyle.
Yoga and the power of concentration
The power of concentration is within each and every one of us. In the yoga teachings of Patanjali, concentration – dharana – is one of the steps towards self-realization – samathi – a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation, at which union with the divine is reached. Through the practice of yoga, we learn how to slow our breath, calm the mind and body, which in turn fills us with the feeling of this possibility.
We can use our internal bodily functions to help calm the mind by focusing on the rhythms of the breath and the heart. To most of us, the breath rhythm is most accessible. To increase concentration, learn to observe the breath, how it moves in and out of the body, how the chest and stomach move, the sensations of the air as it moves in and out of the nostrils, and so forth. Once you’re able to do this, learn to breathe slowly and deliberately and start practicing various pranayama exercises. This is the type of yoga that is often all that’s needed to slow the rhythm of the heart and calm the body and the mind. Focusing on the breath rhythm with the intention of concentration is a powerful tool that can be used not only during yoga practice but also at any point of your day, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes each day.
You may argue that regulating only the breath won’t help all that much and that you also need a healthy lifestyle. Yes, you would, of course, be right. But the breath can be the first step; it’s easy, can be done anywhere and anytime. As you focus on your breath once a day, you will gain more interest in nurturing other habits that help cultivate better concentration, such as getting sufficient sleep, staying physically fit through some form of exercise, eating healthy, and meditating.
The effects on daily life
Improving your concentration will help with what many might view as simple tasks, such as reading a book, but for some it will also help with so much more… improving their ability to handle difficult situations with other people, solving complex problems by creating innovative solutions, understanding and being open to listening to others’ point of view, and advancing the process toward self realization.
“People who know how to concentrate display a remarkable capacity to give to the universe.” – School of Metaphysics
Advanced Hatha Yoga: Classic Methods of Physical Education and Concentration, Shyam Sundar Goswami
A Child’s Way to Yoga, John Walter Thomas
The Yoga of Breath: A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama, Richard Rosen
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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