Intelligence, memory, and concentration are human traits that are highly valued and sought after. There are various yogic techniques that stimulate the brain and nervous system to improve memory and concentration, which can lead to higher intelligence. These practices were initially created to help one enter and sustain a state of meditation, but these yogic concentration exercises will also improve your mental focus, awareness, and memory. Regular and consistent practice of one or more of these practices will boost your overall cognitive abilities, which in turn will strengthen your willpower, resolve, and resilience to overcome difficulty and challenge.
What are concentration techniques?
A concentration technique is an exercise used to improve focus, deepen awareness, or otherwise boost brainpower. The purpose of concentration techniques is to discover how to focus the mind on one point for a sustained duration. The specific point of focus is not essential. The goal of these techniques is to keep the mind sharply focused for the longest period of time. With dedicated practice, concentration techniques can help prevent memory loss, create clarity of thought, and promote everyday mindfulness.
Dharana (the yoga of concentration)
Dharana, the sixth limb of yoga, is a state of focused attention used during asana, pranayama, and meditation. Dharana is a Sanskrit word that is translated as “concentration.” Dharana is the general yoga term for practices that train the mind to become clear, focused, and one-pointed. You can focus the mind on an object that is external (such as an image or deity) or internal (such as a chakra).
Boredom and fear will impair your concentration and create distractions. For the best success, choose your goals and techniques carefully. If you are practicing something that feels too easy, you will become bored, and your mind will wander. If a practice is too challenging, you will encounter fear and resistance, and your attention will shift towards something that is more comfortable and pleasing.
The concentration techniques of Dharana ready the mind for the next step of yogic development dhyana. This is the state of sustained meditation, which ultimately leads to samadhi or enlightenment.
Yoga concentration techniques
- In asana, using a drishti (gazing point) will significantly improve your mental concentration. Focusing your eyes on a drishti point will be especially powerful during balancing asanas like Tree pose and Eagle pose. Spine lengthening postures, the forward and back bending poses, activate the spinal column, and stimulate the nervous system. Inverted postures like headstand and Sarvangasana shoulder stand, nourish the brain by increasing the circulation of blood and oxygen. (Our membership site has two “Brain Boost” sequences that contain yoga poses to increase brain and memory power.)
- In pranayama, the mind is focused on the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Oxygen and prana (energy) are also increased in the body and brain by the regulation of breath. Thus, pranayama increases concentration as well as nourishes the brain.
- Meditation is a step beyond Dharna, requiring even more mental focus and concentration. The practice of meditation either by itself or in conjunction with asana and pranayama un-clutters the mind by reducing excessive thinking. Excessive thinking consumes mental energy and fogs the mind from seeing and thinking clearly. You can use an internal Drishti in Meditation on the sixth chakra or the third eye will activate the brain as well as focus the mind. yantra, mantra, visualization
- There are also several other more uncommon and esoteric hatha yoga techniques that more advanced yogis can explore to strengthen your mental focus. Engaging the bandhas with the above techniques can further strengthen your mental focus. Many of the mudras and Shatkarmas, like Trataka and Khechari mudra will also greatly improve mental concentration.
Benefits of concentration techniques
Asana, pranayama, and meditation are all powerful tools that stimulate the brain and improve the power of the mind. The benefits of these practices are many. Working on Dharana can increase your brain power, bring you into the present moment, and reduce mental distractions. In theory, these yoga practices can possibly prevent or reduce the effects of dementia, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, and other memory issues.
Paramhansa Yogananda tells us that a focused mind is key to having success in life. “The trouble with most people is that when they are performing an action they are thinking about something else. They don’t know how to concentrate on what they are doing when they are doing it. You should learn to think of one thing at a time with all the power of your mind. Your whole attention should be there. Don’t drag along. Doing things in a lackadaisical way leads to failure and misery.”
Originally Published: www.yogabasics.com