I heard of a good reason why it’s hard for us to concentrate on breathing or to meditate. It’s because we don’t really have much experience with staying focussed on just one thing at a time.
For example, I went for a beach walk today and, at the same time, was listening through my head phones to an audiobook. As I drove to the beach, I was thinking about my shopping list. I went shopping and forgot the eggs when I stopped to talk to a neighbour.
It’s no wonder when I sit down to do pranayama after asana practice that my mind doesn’t want to be corralled. The mind rebels and says, ‘Who’re you talkin’ to. I only know how to be distracted!’
Pranayama and asana practice can be vehicles for developing our powers of concentration, but how about the countless activities we do through every day: making a cup of tea, hanging the washing on the line, writing an essay….
Posture awareness is a great tool for developing concentration – not just in yoga, but in standing, sitting, walking. It will yield comfort and grace in the body. Similarly, breath awareness creates relaxation and tranquility in the mind, a state in which there’s little room for distractions.
The beauty of being able to hold a focus is that at these times we are fully present. There’s a newness in the moment and an opening to explore unknown aspects of ourselves. This doesn’t happen all at once, but gradually and smoothly just by dint of sitting on the meditation cushion or waking up to what’s right here right now in front of you.
Dharanasu ca yogyata manasah
And the mind is now prepared for the process of direction towards a chosen goal.*
*Patanjali’s Yogasutras, translation & commentary by T.K.V.Desikachar.