Do you find yourself losing focus easily and struggling to concentrate? High levels of stress and numerous distractions are constant companions in our wired up urban life, but practising a few yoga techniques can help establish a balance. Here are two asanas and one breathing exercise that can leave you feeling re-focused, energized and calm in a matter of minutes.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between both feet. Press all four corners of your feet into the ground. Stand firmly for a few seconds grounding yourself and focusing your attention on your breath.
Slowly lift your left leg and place your left foot against the inner thigh of the right leg. If possible press the left heel into the inner groin, toes pointing towards the floor. If it is difficult to get your balance with your leg this high up, start by placing it on the inner ankle or calf. The centre of your pelvis should be directly over the right foot. Keep the right leg straight and strong. Pull up the right kneecap.
Firmly press the left foot sole against the inner thigh and resist with the outer right leg. Place your palms together in front of your chest and keep a soft steady gaze. Lengthen your spine to stay as straight as possible.
Count: Stay for 30 seconds-1 minute. Then change to the other leg and repeat for the same length of time.
Precautions: While moving in and out of this asana and while holding the pose, try to be aware of your breath. Take even, steady breaths throughout.
This pose improves your sense of balance and strengthens the thighs, calves, ankles and spine. It relieves sciatica and improves the curvature of the feet.
PSYCHIC NADI SHODHANA
This is an alternative nostril breathing technique. This technique usually involves the use of fingers. We will do it without this, so that we can increase concentration and mind control. Psychic Nadi Shodhana ensures that the whole body is nourished by an extra supply of oxygen, stimulating the brain centres to work closer to their optimum capacity. It is recommended for those engaged in mental work all day as it induces tranquillity, clarity of thought and concentration. It lowers stress and anxiety levels.
How to do it: To begin, sit in a comfortable sitting posture. Those who cannot sit cross-legged may sit against a wall with legs outstretched or in a chair with a straight back. Keep the head and back straight and aligned. Place the hands in chin mudra, which is thumb and index fingers touching, palms facing upwards; or jnana mudra, thumb and index fingers touching, palms facing downwards.
Count: Relax the body and mind. Focus your attention on your breath and take equal inhalations and exhalations. Then count to five while inhaling, and vice versa.
Slowly shift your awareness to your left nostril and breathe in through the left for a count of five. Then shift the awareness to the right nostril as you exhale to a count of five. Inhale again from the right and exhale through the left. Maintain a count of five for each breath.
This completes one round. Repeat again. Do this for 5-10 minutes. Slowly you can increase the count to eight and then 10, etc. This is a tough breathing technique to practise without using your fingers to block your nostril, but since the purpose of this technique is to help you increase focus and concentrate better, don’t use your fingers.
How to do it: Stand with your feet together. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes towards the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf. Balance on the right foot. If it is difficult to find your balance initially you can rest your back against a wall.
Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your scapulas (shoulder blades) wide across the back of your torso. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows.
Simply fit the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. Get your palms to face each other. Press the palms together as much as you can and lift the elbows up to be in line with your shoulders. Keep pulling your shoulders away from your ears.
Count: Stay for 15-30 seconds, then unwind the legs and arms and repeat for the same length of time with the other leg and arm reversed.
Precautions: Keep your back straight throughout. This pose improves concentration and balance. It strengthens and stretches the ankles and calves, thighs, hips, shoulders and upper back.
Maya Rao is a Mumbai-based authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher who conducts private classes.
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