One of the goals of yoga is deep meditation. You’ll benefit most from deep meditation if you can sharpen your mind so you can focus and concentrate. Of course, meditation is not the only activity you need a sharp mind for. There are many times throughout your day when you need to focus.
In Patanjali’s yoga, the sixth limb—dharana—is all about focus and concentration. It’s a practice that helps sharpen your mind so you can move to the next level. Dharana is the ability to bring the mind to a single point of focus.
Why Sharpen Your Mind?
A focused, steady mind is a valuable tool for everyday living, especially given the many ways our senses are bombarded with sights, sounds, demands and distractions.
If you have a job to do or a goal to accomplish, you will usually need to focus to do it well. How can you hone the ability to concentrate? If you’re a yogi, you know that a key to being able to focus is the ability to tune out distractions. You also need to stay in the present moment.
Focus Your Gaze to Sharpen Your Mind
As you probably know, many static yoga poses, especially balancing poses, are easier when you focus your gaze on a single point. Practicing balancing poses can help you learn to stay in the moment.
Here are some specific yoga poses and practices you can do to improve focus and concentration:
- Tree Pose. As mentioned, any pose that requires balance – whether it’s a variation of tree pose or something more advanced – is easier when you focus your gaze on a single point. When you begin practicing balancing poses, don’t worry if you lose your balance. Just refocus and get back into the pose. It will get easier!
- Prayer Pose. Whenever you bring your hands together at your heart, your attention will naturally focus there. That’s why this action is helpful to refocus attention. Prayer pose can be done while standing, seated, and even in twists. In fact, any time you want to sharpen your mind, pause, and bring your hands together at your heart center.
- Warrior Poses, especially Warrior Two and Warrior Three. In Warrior Two, you gaze over the hand that extends in the direction of the bent knee. It’s a powerful pose to practice when you want to build focus. Warrior Three is a balancing pose, so it’s an even better tool for developing the ability to concentrate.
- Alternate Nostril Breathing. Yogic breathing techniques have a variety of purposes, and this one is excellent tool you can use to sharpen the mind, because you have to pay attention which nostril you’re breathing through and whether you’re breathing in or out.
- Mindfulness Meditation. The ultimate goal of meditation may be to empty the mind, but before you can do that, you have to pay attention to what’s happening in your mind in the first place. Practicing mindfulness – one type of yogic meditation – will increase your ability to focusing on anything that needs your attention.
Add a Bit of Peppermint
Want an extra tool you can use to sharpen your mind? If you’re a fan of aromatherapy, try peppermint essential oil. The sharp scent of peppermint is known for its ability to awaken the mind and clear out the cobwebs that make focusing difficult.
Peppermint is also great for getting rid of headaches, which often hinder the ability to focus. Its cooling properties make breathing easier, and it has a clean, refreshing scent that will make your mind feel less cluttered.
Adding the scent of peppermint can not only help you focus, but it can also help enhance your yoga practice, particularly when you are trying to master the poses that require a sharp, attentive mind.