Many people participate in yoga for concentration. There are several different methods that may be used. For example, a phrase or mantra can be repeated silently. In some cases, the focus may be placed on an object, picture, or drawing though a practice called trataka. In the alternative, the practitioner may focus on a particular energy center of the body or on the inhalations and exhalations of the breath. Certain poses or asanas may also be used in yoga for concentration.
People who study the philosophy behind yoga believe that a certain aspect of yoga, called dharana, may help improve the focus of the mind or help increase concentration. Generally, this means that practitioners let go of any thoughts or distractions that may enter their minds. For example, if a person is attempting to use yoga for concentration and her mind keeps drifting to thoughts of the pile of laundry sitting at the foot of the bed, she must immediately clear those thoughts from her mind. Practitioners know that those thoughts are not going anywhere, they are just put on hold.
One of the ways to use yoga for concentration is to silently repeat a mantra or phrase. The phrase may be as simple as, "Let go," or it may be a Sanskrit phrase with a deeper meaning. Using a mantra or a phrase helps the person keep focus and improves concentration. Some people prefer to focus on an energy center of the body or on a particular body part during a pose.
A person can also use trataka, a practice where the practitioner focuses on an object, without blinking, for a minute at a time. For example, a person might stare at the top of a candle flame for one minute. Then, she will close her eyes and see what type of visualizations come forth. This practice is believed to dramatically improve concentration because the person must focus both with her eyes open and with her eyes closed.
Among the most common uses of yoga for concentration is through the focus on breathing. For example, a person may sit cross-legged and simply listen to her inhales and exhales. Often the exhales are made slightly audible to increase the amount of focus or concentration. Another example uses a technique called alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana. Through this technique, the person breathes through one nostril at a time, closing off one nostril with the ring-finger and the other with the thumb.
Popular poses used in yoga for concentration include balance poses, bending poses, and inversions. For example, a person may use the tree pose, standing on one leg with arms raised above the head. Her focus may be on a stationary spot ahead of her, called a dristi. In the alternative, she may enter into a backbend. Many people believe that bending the spine engages the nervous system and increases concentration. Inversions, such as headstands and handstands, are thought to increase the flow of blood to the brain and increase concentration.