It was a pleasant surprise to realize that yoga has helped to improve my concentration. Over the years I have seen immense (immense) improvement.
I am now able to witness, while working at my desk, for example, a break in concentration and guide my mind back to the task. When I notice the break I say to myself “your mind is all over the place, should you be concentrating on that thing again?” Although, I am no saint, sometimes I don’t go back to the task and just look at Amazon or Facebook instead. But I have noticed that improved skill. And I attribute it to my yoga practice.
Doing poses helps with concentration?
Yes. Doing yoga poses can help with concentration. But you have to do them in a certain way.
Doing a series of poses while my mind is roaming all over the place won’t improve my concentration. Afterward I might have a vague sense of “feeling better” but it’s not a good method for improved concentration.
In the yoga philosophy there is an in depth description of the eight limbs (or eight steps) on the path. Concentration is the sixth limb. The seventh is meditation. So, you need to concentrate before you can meditate.
My teacher(s) have taught me if I concentrate on the actions within the poses my mind will focus, and the concentration will happen. Instead of going to my mat and letting my mind wonder on to anything it wants I ask my mind to focus on the knee caps lifting or the shoulder blades spreading or deepening the exhalation.
Over and over I have gone to my mat to ask my mind to focus on something else. Something that isn’t it’s natural inclination, at the moment. Many times I get to the mat and I am worried about paying a bill, or how I am going to finish a project or if the students are going to show up. Normal life things. Instead of thinking about those things I try to focus on the poses. As the practice session moves along my mind lets go of obsessing and finally settles down.
So much of my mind flitting around has just been a habit I had to unlearn. My mind had learned how to obsesses. It makes sense that it also had to learn how to un-obsess.