8 yoga poses to help you focus

April 30, 2023 0 Comments

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If you’re reading this article, it’s safe to assume you’re not in a cave somewhere where your only concern is meditation and yoga. Living in the world—and being a part of it—comes with many responsibilities, many commitments, and many opportunities to divide our attention.

Except that according to current research, our attention cannot be divided. Multitasking doesn’t really exist. Neuroimaging shows that our brain can only perform one action at a time. What we perceive as multitasking is actually rapid task switching—our awareness jumping back and forth between each task. No wonder we feel so thin and exhausted all the time!

Yoga is a grounding tool. Body movement and breath work provide two real-time pathways that we can tune into. Postural alignment can be a form of meditation in its own right, as it gives the mind something to focus on. In this sequence, we’ll take a slow-paced approach to our favorite and most well-known grounding poses so you end your practice feeling grounded and present.

Dark-haired woman practicing Balasana with her head on a yoga block.
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

1. Balasana (child’s pose)

Think of the phrases we use to describe feeling ungrounded: “distracted,” “out of body,” “head in the clouds.” Each of these means there is no ground beneath you, so the best thing to do when you feel this is to connect with the earth. It can be as simple as going outside barefoot, stopping to touch a tree, or tending to a houseplant. In this case, we’ll place the strap on the hips to emphasize the heaviness we’re trying to create.

As: Get on your knees and place the strap across your upper thighs at the hip joint. Holding the ends of the strap in each hand, lower your hips and fold into child’s pose. As you lower your hips back to your heels, press the strap back to your buttocks and down to the floor. You can hold the strap for a certain amount of time or let it go. Hold for twenty breaths. When it’s time to exit, get on your hands and knees and set the belt aside.

A dark-haired woman practices cow pose with her forearms on the floor
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

2. Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow), variation

When we maneuver poses on the floor, it helps to do so from a solid base. Lowering to the forearms in Cat/Cow gives us more real estate on the floor and symbolically keeps us closer to the ground. It’s also a great way to stretch the upper back more deeply, especially the space between the shoulder blades that gets tight when we’re overworked and overworked.

As: From the table, lower yourself onto your forearms, aligning your elbows under your shoulders. Place your forearms shoulder-width apart and firmly press your hands into the floor. Make sure your knees are below your hips. As you inhale, pull your chest through your shoulders and form a back arch to enter the Cow. As you exhale, rest your forearms on the ground and spread your shoulder blades to arch your back in the opposite direction. Continue for eight rounds, moving slowly and pressing into the floor to start the movement.

A woman practices a low lunge variation with her forearm on a block.
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

3. Low lunge variation

This low lunge variation is useful for opening up the hips and lumbar system, which tenses up under stress. Even though we are technically no longer touching the ground when we use blocks and other supports, having these supports is just as important. If anything, the supports simply lift the floor towards us and help us feel more stable in the pose.

As: In the table, exhale and extend the left leg behind, keeping the knee in the back. (Cover it with blankets for comfort.) On an exhale, press hard into the floor and step your right foot to the front of the mat. If your leg does not reach the end, pull it forward with your hand so that the knee is aligned over the heel. Bring both hands to the inside of your right leg. Lower yourself onto your forearms, resting on blocks or completely on the floor. Allow your head to hang down so that your upper back is slightly rounded. Stay here and breathe for ten breaths. Return to the Tabletop and repeat on the opposite side.

A dark-haired woman practices a forearm plank
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

4. Forearm bar

Grounding isn’t just about being heavy and staying low. We can also use our “roots” to climb up. Our core—whether we press into our feet, lower legs, hips, pelvis, forearms, or hands—can be the launching pad for the rest of our body. It is through their contact with the floor that we can create more physical space and strength.

As: From the table, lower yourself onto your forearms, aligning your elbows under your shoulders. Then, step both feet back with your toes curled into a plank position. You can keep your legs straight or drop your knees behind your hips. Lower your forearms down and watch the lift spread throughout your body. Keep your legs engaged to support your upper body. Stay here and breathe for ten breaths. Consider going through Downward Facing Dog and maybe some vinyasa before kneeling and preparing for the next pose.

A dark-haired woman in loose purple pants practices a moving version of the Warrior 2 pose
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

5. Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

We don’t need to feel like we have to be fixed in place to connect with a sense of groundedness. Grounding can also involve movement. We’re just learning to do it in a more connected and present space. Adding dynamic movements to this low-to-the-ground version of Warrior 2 will help us achieve this.

As: From a table position, place the right foot between the hands, take the left food back and turn the toes to the left. Come up to standing and open to the left so your torso is facing the long side of the mat. Inhale and spread your arms to the sides. Pause and exhale. Now, moving with your breath, inhale and stretch your right arm to the right and bend your torso toward your right knee. As you exhale, extend your left arm back and bend back over your hips. Do this five times, focusing on the support of the legs. After the final round, return the hands to the floor on either side of the front and return to the table or come through downward facing dog before repeating the pose on the opposite side.

A dark-haired woman practices camel pose with one hand raised and the other hand on her hip
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

6. Ustrasana (Camel Pose), variation

When we open up to others, there is an energetic opening. We can better accept these moments of vulnerability when we are emotionally grounded. We feel vulnerability in our body when we practice backbends. Spinal extension exposes our vital organs as we return to the unknown. Whether we’re in an emotionally or physically vulnerable place, starting from a central space will help us hold ourselves in place.

As: Start on your knees and stand on your shins, feet and legs hip-width apart. Bring your hands to the sacrum and the back of the pelvis. Before you bend back, feel your shins and the tops of your feet touch the ground. Press into this base as you lift your chest. As you exhale, bend back to come into camel pose. Keep your left hand on your lower back and inhale as you extend your right hand forward and up in line with your ear. Hold for a breath, then lower the arm and return it to the sacrum. Repeat on the left side. Go back and forth between your hands and maybe even catch a moment where neither hand is on your back and you are supported entirely by your legs. After five rounds, inhale and kneel. Sit on your heels and pause.

Woman folds forward in Pascimottanasana.  She is sitting on a blue rug.  She is wearing loose purple pants and a gray T-shirt
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

7. Paschimottanasana (sitting forward)

Curling up while sitting on the floor can be one of the most grounding things we can do. Not only do we sit on the ground and draw this solid energy with the backs of our feet and our seat, but then we also bow to it.

As: Take a sitting position and extend your legs in front of you. If your back tends to round or you have trouble sitting up straight, place a folded blanket under your sit bones. As you inhale, stretch your arms up; while exhaling, lean forward to bring your body to your feet. Give preference to a long spine and a straight back. This means you can rest on your arms the whole time with your chest out, or you can grab your shins or feet and rest your stomach on your legs. Listen to what you need. There is nothing justified in tension. Stay here for ten long breaths. On the last breath, lift the body from the legs and sit down.

A woman practices Savasana lying on a blue mat.
(Photo: Sara Ezrin)

8. Savasana lying down

Before we end our practice and return to all our duties and business, let’s enjoy the inner nature of this sequence by truly wrapping ourselves in Savasana. This final pose is traditionally performed with the back to the ground. In this version, we will lie on the front of the body, resting on a pad or blanket, to experience the sensation of sinking while resting.

As: Take a pad or a thick stack of blankets and place it vertically in the center of the mat. Fold the blanket over the top of the forehead mat. Kneel against the back of the mat and lie on the mat so that it runs the length of your chest to the top of your thighs. Adjust the blanket to the appropriate height and width so you have room to breathe and feel rested. Extend your legs behind you and let them relax. Stay for five to seven minutes—or longer if you can. When you’re ready to come out of the pose, return to child’s pose for a few minutes before sitting down.

Now choose what deserves your attention the most.

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