Do you ever find that you have trouble focusing on what you’re doing? Maybe you’re cooking dinner and realize you put the oven mitts in the refrigerator and the butter in the drawer. Or maybe you’re driving down the road worrying about a project coming up at work and you realize you don’t remember the last several miles.
Our world is more fast-paced than ever, and too often we don’t take the time to slow down and pay attention. Starting a yoga practice can help you change that. Read on to learn more about yoga for concentration, improving your memory and how you can start a practice today.
Overall Benefits of Yoga
Although yoga is a great tool for improving memory and concentration, it also offers a huge number of other health benefits. On the physical side of things, you gain greater flexibility and tone when you practice yoga. You may also find it easier to breathe – literally – and have better cardiac health.
Yoga is a form of meditation, and so comes with a number of the same benefits. It is a wonderful stress reliever and can help ease pain and make it easier to sleep. It relaxes the mind and creates mental clarity and calmness, which can be helpful for anxiety, depression, reducing stress and help improve your overall brain health.
How Yoga Helps Concentration
For many of us, concentration problems stem from the fact that our minds are always running in a million different directions, which makes it difficult to pay attention. We’re thinking about when we have to pick the kids up from practice, the projects we have going at work, what’s for dinner, chores we need to do around the house, and when we’re going to call our best friend. That doesn’t leave much space for us to concentrate and stay focused on the task at hand.
What yoga does is teach us to compartmentalize and focus on one thing at a time. When you’re doing yoga, you’re focusing on your breath and the movements in your body. That practice of shutting out distractions will carry over to the rest of your life, making it easier for you to let go of everything else going on and focus on the task at hand.
Tips for Practicing
Everybody’s yoga practice is different, and the key to building one that works for you is to listen to your needs. Yoga is a time to get back in touch with your body and your mind, listen to what they are telling you, and be with them non-judgmentally. So bring that acceptance into your practice.
When you’re trying a new pose, or practicing your favorite yoga poses, don’t push things to the point of pain; instead, try to gently lean into the poses that you struggle with while giving your body the space it needs. Practicing in loose-fitting clothing and on an empty stomach will make this easier. And if you find you have trouble winding down or shutting out other thoughts, some gentle meditation music in the background can serve as a signal that this is time to focus on your body, your breath, and your practice.
Doing inversion yoga poses where you are upside down can do a few things to improve your concentration. For one thing, it promotes a rich flow of blood to the brain, encouraging brain health. And for another, these poses often require some balance, which requires focus and patience — two important skills to have.
Stand straight up with your feet wider than your shoulders, clasp your hands behind your back, and slowly lean over until you are bent double with your hands clasped at your low back. You can also lay on the floor on your back and lift your legs up in the air, bracing your elbows at your sides and using your hands to help lift your hips up off the floor. And if you’re feeling daring, you can try a headstand.
Yoga poses that focus specifically on balance require greater concentration and are great for learning to tune out distractions. You can’t focus on balancing if you’re thinking about what’s on your grocery list. These also strengthen your core, as well as your arms and legs.
A great balance pose to start with is Vrksasana, or Tree Pose. Place your hands folded at the center of your chest, shift your weight to one leg, and put the other foot on your leg as high up as you can. You can also do Garudasana, or Eagle Pose, by crossing one leg over the other and then tucking your ankle back around your supporting leg, followed by placing one arm over the other and then bringing your palms around to meet in front of your face.
Seated yoga poses are great for bringing your focus back to your breath and centering your mind. These poses are low-impact, which makes them great for beginners and for finishing out practices.
Start in Lotus Pose, or Padmasana, sitting cross-legged with your feet tucked up on top of your thighs. You can then extend your arms up over your head with your palms together for Parvatasana, or Seated Mountain Pose. Or you can sit in Vajrasana, or Thunderbolt Pose, kneeling with your lower legs tucked under your upper legs.
Everything in yoga comes back to pranayama, which is the practice of controlling your breath. You focus on your breath, control it, and use it as a mechanism to get back in touch with the rest of your body. There are a variety of breath control techniques you can use in your practice.
Start by using your thumb to close your left nostril and then inhaling deeply through the right. Hold that breath in, open your left nostril, and close your right nostril with your pinky finger. Exhale through your left nostril, inhale slowly again, and switch back.
You can also chant or hum on every exhale as a technique to help center yourself.
Try Yoga for Concentration and Memory
Yoga is a fantastic practice that can calm stress, reduce pain, and give you greater flexibility. But you can also use yoga for improving your concentration and memory. Start with a simple ten-minute practice and watch how much that little bit of time will change your life.
If you’d like a space to get started with your yoga practice, come see us. We offer yoga classes in London. Contact us today to schedule your first class and start restoring peace to your life.