How to Meditate for Better Concentration
We lead extremely busy lives – more often than not we have to devote our attention to many different tasks simultaneously. Meditation is an antidote to this scatteredness: when we practice, we train the mind to be fully aware of one thing at a time. The result is that our ability to concentrate increases. Thanks to our meditation practice, we are better able to focus in the moment and remain focused over time.
Research confirms that the brain functions of frequent mediators change for the better. Mediators are less likely to find themselves at the mercy of distractions and an unruly mind than people who don’t meditate. There are many different meditation techniques for concentration; if you’re looking to sharpen your focus, you can choose one that appeals to you.
3 meditation methods that increase concentration
Among the many meditation techniques that are easily accessible, one of the most effective and best-known ways to improve concentration is to practice mindfulness. Can you think of any task that can be performed perfectly without your giving it your full attention? Many activities, including driving, playing sports or music, reading and paying attention at work or at school, require high levels of concentration. In addition, you’re more likely to derive satisfaction from homing in on and accomplishing one chosen task than from trying to juggle several at one go. As you train the mind to remain present and fully focused on one object – physical sensations or the process of breathing, for example – you learn to let go of all other thoughts and distractions as well.
There’s a lot of freedom in discovering that you don’t have to pay attention to every little thing that pops into your mind. When you can be mindful at will, your ability to concentrate naturally increases.
An Italian neuroscientist named Giuseppe Pagnoni conducted a study where he compared the brain functions of a dozen long-term practitioners of Zen meditation and a dozen people of similar profiles who were not familiar with meditation. According to an article in Psychology Today, Pagnoni found that the mediators’ minds were more stable than the other group’s and their ability to focus was superior. This isn’t surprising given the rigorous methods that are central to the practice of Zen meditation.
Counting the breath cycles
A recent study suggested that deep breathing has a positive impact on our bodies since it helps us deal more skillfully with stress. Many cutting-edge companies have meditation rooms and encourage their employees to take a break, relax and focus on their breathing.
One meditation method that is especially helpful for those who find it difficult to concentrate is counting the breathing cycles. This form of meditation takes mindfulness a step further by giving the meditator a dynamic task: count inhale, exhale, one. Inhale, exhale, two. Inhale, exhale, three, and so on. Remaining fully aware during this process is a powerful training in concentration – many people notice that their minds have wandered before they can count to three. With time and patience, though, their ability to focus improves and they can keep counting… The sky’s the limit!
4 yoga poses that increase concentration
1. Tadasana (Palm-tree pose):
Tadasana is one of the most basic yoga poses. To do this asana, stand with feet hip-distance apart, making sure that the weight is balanced equally. While inhaling, raise the arms above the body and interlock fingers. While keeping the palms faced upwards, raise both the shoulders and while exhaling, roll the shoulders back down. While exhaling, open the chest and straighten the body.
Continue the shoulder movement with every breath in and out. While exhaling, relax the face, eyes and tongue. After a few breaths, release the posture.
Tadasana opens up the chest, improves posture, strengthens the thigh region, increases concentration and awareness, and relieves sciatica. This asana helps in releasing any fatigue in the body.
2. Vrikshasana (Tree pose)
Another asana that can relax and rejuvenate while also increasing focus is Vrikshasana. To do this, stand with your feet relaxed on the ground. Take a breath in and raise your right foot off the floor. Slowly, draw the foot to press on the inner left thigh. Avoid the knee joint and try to keep the body as relaxed as possible. Slowly, join palms in Namaste and raise arms above the head. Keep the body as still as possible and after a few breaths, relax and release the posture.
The tree pose replicates the steady yet graceful stance of a tree. This posture stretches the legs, arms and the back and also improves concentration.
3. Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend pose)
t is a common experience that if lower back and legs are unrelated then invariably concentration levels will also reduce. That is why many working professionals and students, especially those who have to sit and concentrate for hours, feel better when they move around for a few minutes.
Paschimottanasana is one such posture that can easily stretch hips, hamstrings and lower back, thereby ensuring concentration for long hours. To do this, start by sitting down and stretching legs out in front of you. Raise both the arms and stretch them above the head. Bend forward from the hip with chin moving towards the toes. Place the hands as far as they can reach. While doing this asana, keep the spine erect and lengthen it by slowly stretching forward easily.
To relax, stretch the arms in front, raise them with an inhalation and put them down while exhaling
4. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
Continuous work can feel as though the blood has drained from your brain. The term ‘head feeling sluggish’ comes to use in these times. To counter this, Sarvangasana can be practiced as this asana rushes all the blood back to your brain, recharging it effectively and improving concentration.
Lie straight on the floor on the back. Pull both legs upwards so that the lower body is slightly elevated. Keep both palms pressed firmly on the lower back and hip region, in a way that the palms are supporting the back. Now, with the help and support of hands, push lower back upwards along with the legs. The whole weight of the body is supported by the shoulders and hands. While coming down, slowly bring down the back with the help of hands and then slowly lower the legs.
5. Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutations)
Another yogasana that can be performed is the Suryanamaskar. This is the perfect set of postures that aids in improving concentration, reducing obesity, and giving all-round fitness and flexibility.
The utility of Suryanamaskar is so widespread that they should be a permanent part of the daily regime anyway. But, it has been found that doing it daily can improve memory significantly, thus ensuring a well spent study time.
6. Meditation to improve concentration
Many students have wondered in their daydreams as to why it is so easy to learn movie dialogues by hearing them just once! But they read a single-page several times and yet not fully grasp it. This is because our mind can only fully imbibe something when it is relaxed. And yet, it is difficult to be relaxed while studying as our study environment keeps highlighting that just a few exams can make or break our career.
This is where meditation can expertly help you to calm the mind whilst also increasing its ability to concentrate. We recommend practicing any one from the many guided meditations available on the official Art of Living YouTube channel. Just 20 minutes and the mind is recharged to tackle several successive hours of work or studies.
7. Lifestyle Choices that enhance concentration
It is a fact that lifestyle choices greatly impact energy and concentration levels. Little things like sleeping hours and food choices can make a lot of difference to studies. Too much or too little sleep leads to the mind either feeling lethargic or tiresome respectively. Similarly, too much food makes the mind drowsy, too little food or spicy food intake makes the mind agitated.
This doesn’t mean that you need to live a military lifestyle or take bland food all the time. But by monitoring sleep and meals, and a little attention on daily routine can go a long way in sustaining concentration levels and retention power.
8. Take a step back
Even if you love what you are doing, when the mind is trained at a single thing for too long, it tires out. So, after every few hours, take a break and do something completely different for a few minutes. Whether it is exercise, word jumbles, throwing the ball around or just lying down , let the mind disengage. Just like a bow is pulled back for the arrow to shoot forward, this could be the break that helps power through the work more effectively.
- Concentrate without physical tension. Many new mediators, in an effort to concentrate more deeply, tense the muscles in their body. Deep concentration, however, is possible only in a state of relaxation.
- Relax your body. To concentrate effectively, you need to start by relaxing the body. A very effective way to release stored-up bodily tension is to inhale and tense the whole body, and then release the tension as you exhale. Yogananda recommended tensing and relaxing, as well as the Regular Breathing Technique before meditation.
- Pray before you meditate. This will help you remember why you are meditating! You will also be inviting the Divine, or your Higher Self, to help you in your practice.
- Sit perfectly still. Moving your body the slightest amount sends energy, or life-force, into the muscles. Since the purpose of yoga is to draw your energy inward, any physical movement reduces your effort because it draws your energy and awareness into the body. To keep yourself from fidgeting during meditation, try thinking of your body as a rock — solid and unmoving.
- Sit longer. Your restlessness will subside the longer you sit in meditation. Even a glass of muddy water becomes clear in time, if the water is allowed to sit undisturbed.
- Keep your eyes gently raised. The point between the eyebrows, or spiritual eye, is the seat of concentration in the body, and whenever we need to concentrate deeply, we naturally focus there. It is very beneficial to keep the eyes lifted, without strain, during meditation. If you do, you will notice an improvement in your concentration.
- Consciously withdraw the energy from the body. Practice the Hong-Saul Meditation Technique; it is one of the most sacred techniques of yoga because of its ability to interior and focus the mind.
- To develop concentration, do one thing at a time, and do it well. Practicing concentration in daily life will help you concentrate better during meditation.
- Concentrate with interest. When you really want something, it is difficult not to think about it! Concentrate with interest on whatever you do, and you will find yourself absorbed in it.
- Pray for concentration and devotion. Sincerity means having the support of one’s whole being. Pray for sincerity of effort in your meditation practice!