Yoga For Concentration and Mental Focus
Here are some important yogasanas that yoga gurus have been teaching their disciples to increase focus & concentration and can also help you to:
- Cover more syllabus – complete more chapters in less time
- Remember all that you study
- Maintain high levels of energy
- Score your best in exams
A common sight during the board exam season is that of sad students feeling burned-out and lacking energy. This happens because of improper management of energy. To start feeling revived again, you must find the a way to start blood flow through your boady rigorously – and the best way to do that is through by doing the “Surya Namaskar” followed by the “Pranayama”:
1. Surya Namaskar
One of the most energising technique in yoga, the Surya Namaskar is composed of 12 postures which help to influence the working of different organs and glands present in the body. With this, your body becomes energetic and there is free movement of blood in the body. It also develops strength, stability and flexibility of body and mind. If done with controlled movements of breath, it improves your lungs’ capacity as well.
Tip: You’ll benefit the most of you do at least 3 rounds of Surya Namaskar every morning, before you start studying
Matsyasana, also known as fish pose, helps in blood circulation to the head but doing this asana will also help in relieving stress in the neck and the back area which is either caused by mental or physical stress or maybe even both. To perform this asana, first you must bend your right leg and place the right foot on top of the left thigh. Do the same for the left leg by keeping it on the right thigh. Use your elbows to lift the back and ensure that it forms an arch and rest your head on the ground simultaneously. Now hold your big toes with your hands.
How do you manage time when you prepare for exams? For most students it’s about creating a time-table and then following that schedule. What we often miss is how to perfectly predict how long a subject/chapter is going to take. Often students tell us, “We thought this chapter could be covered 2 hours but when we started studying, it took 5 hours.” This happens because of two reasons 1. Inexperience- which cannot be controlled 2. Ability to not be completely in the present: for which the practice of Kapalbhati works perfectly. Here is how you can use this yoga technique for better time management:
This is a technique of pranayama as well as a process of cleansing of your system and is part of the Hatha Yoga. This technique enhances the level of vitality (prana) in your body.Being an energizing pranayama this technique requires efforts. The focus is on rapid forceful exhalations and the passive inhalations resulting in rapid and perceptible movements of your abdominal muscles.
In the first round, start with 15 forceful strokes and gradually increase the number of counts in each round. After the end of each round take a long deep breath in and out, and then breathe normally for a few moments. Then start the second round. Do this 3 – 4 times.
Kapalbhati pranayama, image courtesy: www.yogaandayurved.com
Studying for exams is often accompanied by thoughts like “I won’t be able to do this”, “nahin hoga“. Students with such thoughts often get into a state of feeling lost and lose their “emotional energy” to get work done. In this case, what works perfectly is the practice of Nadi Shodhan (nerves purification.) Our brain sends electronic signals and a small 5 minute session can just change the way your whole body acts and behaves.
A 5 minute yoga exercise which can help immensely in balancing your emotional energy and get rid of negative thoughts, the Nadi Shodhan helps to purify and balance the energies at the physical, mental and emotional levels.
In this practice we use the right hand to manipulate the flow of the breath flowing through alternate nostrils. We use the right hand thumb to close and open the right nostril and the right hand’s ring finger to close the left nostril. When the right nostril is closed, breathe through your left nostril 20 times. Now close your left nostril with the same hand’s right finger and breathe 20 times through the right nostril.
Tip: This exercise is best done on an empty stomach, keeping your spine, back and neck straight.
How to do Nadi Shodhana pranayama, image courtesy: zamayoga.com.au
Being in the Moment – Managing Brain Waves
Studying too much in a short span of time can stress your brain out. It’s like asking someone to suddenly lift a 50 kg weight. The brain too is an organ that has its own learning curve. So when you need your brain to do some heavy-weight work, what works best is the practice of Bhramari, the yogic act of managing your brain waves.
This pranayama (also known as Bee Breath) helps to release stress and relax the brain waves – resulting in improved memory and increased confidence.
Use your index finger or thumb to close your ears. During the process keep your eyes and lips gently closed and jaws slightly separated. Take a long & deep breath in and with exhalation, make a long humming sound like a bee (10 times.)
Bhramari pranayam (bee breath), image courtesy: www.youtube.com/user/VentunoYoga
Attention: How to be at Ease
Have you seen cricketer, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s face when he is playing the last ball which requires a six? Or the last over of a T20 match where the other team requires 5 runs and India still wins. Or observe the tennis player, Roger Federer or any sports legend – what they have done is to master the art of keeping themselves calm during moments of extremely high tension. It’s a practice which can be learnt and meditation is one key component for the same. Yoga nidra is the one such meditative practice that helps to relax the conscious mind . It’s like sleeping, but with awareness. This simple technique relaxes the mind and body. You can communicate with your sub-conscious mind and can enhance its working.
Padmasana is quite helpful and easy to do. All you have to do is sit on the floor with your eyes closed. Keep your spine straight. Fold your left knee and put it on top of the right thigh. Similarly do the same thing for your right knee by placing it on top of your left thigh. This asana will not only help you for relaxation but it will also help you improve your concentration. Practicing pranayama (breathing exercise) in this posture (padmasana) makes it even better as it will help you relieve muscle tension because of sitting and studying for extended periods of time.
7. Yoga Nidra
Lie down straight on your back with eyes closed. Take slow and relaxed breaths. Now take your mind’s attention to each and every part of your body starting with your right foot.
Tip: Don’t try this after a meal as you might end up doing only nidra (sleep) and no yoga!
Yoga Nidra to relac your conscious mind, image courtesy: brixtonbass.co.uk
With these yoga techniques a balance is created in the working of your mind as it becomes more relaxed and when the mind is relaxed, its productivity increases. It is important for students to take out that little time from your schedule and perform this routine. In fact parents can encourage their children to do yoga by starting the practise themselves.
Other ASANAS for overcoming mental as well as physical stress
The following are some of the other important asanas that not only help the students in sharpening memory power but it also helps them when it comes to overall fitness. Therefore, students won’t have to fall sick while preparing for their Board exams.
Simply put, Vrikshasana is a standing tree pose asana where you stand on one leg and then lift the opposite leg and then fold it by placing it into the corresponding thigh. This asana helps in strengthening your knees and is good for the overall body but more importantly this asana plays a vital role in improving your concentration.
One of the very basic asanas, Padahasthasana is an intense standing forward bend posture. Initially you are supposed be in a standing position. Now inhale and raise your hands all the way up. Hold your breath for a second or two before you exhale and bend forward at the same time. Your hands should touch your feet and try not to bend your knees while doing this asana. This asana has a lot of physical benefits as it strengthens your spine and legs but apart from all of that, it improves blood circulation to your brain.
Vajrasana is one of those powerful asanas for students who have memory problems. In this pose, you are supposed to kneel down on a flat surface and ensure that your ankles, toes and knees touch the ground. Your spine should be straight before you position both of your palms on top of your knees. Now close your eyes and relax for a couple of minutes or even half hour. This asana helps in calming your mind and if done regularly it helps elevate concentration. This asana also has other benefits as it helps in digestion but also increases the blood flow in your body.
11. Salamba Sarvangasana
Salamba Sarvangasana is an effective asana when it comes to boosting memory power as it increases the blood flow to the brain. This shoulder stand pose does assure to bring in effective results, if done properly and regularly as it is guaranteed to increase grasping and intelligence power in students. This asana also cures headaches and more importantly it helps students who lack the ability to sleep properly because of stress.
To successfully pull off this asana, lie down first and then slowly raise your legs upwards. Place your palms on the back for support. Hold your legs still once they are in 90 degree position.
Caution: Avoid this asana in case you are suffering from a neck injury.
With inputs from Deepti Bhandari
Born in the “Yoga capital of the world”, Rishikesh, Deepti is Chief Yoga Instructor at Calmness with Yoga, an organization in Delhi teaching authentic & traditional yoga practices to attain calmness. Prior to this she was a senior yoga instructor for almost 9 years at the Ananda – In the Himalayas, rated among the best destination spas in the world.