“Discombobulated” is a word which deserves to be said out loud. It is a brilliant word but what does it mean and is it even a real word?
It is indeed a real word, formed in 19th century America and it means feeling confused and disorientated. And it may be that with the focus of our attention and energy suddenly shifting once again (schools reopening, lockdown 3 restrictions tentatively easing) you are finding yourself feeling a little “discombobulated”. Our routines and sleep patterns have changed, and perhaps even more unsettling is the awareness that more change is ahead but as of yet we don’t really know when exactly or indeed how emerging fully from lockdown 3 is going to leave us emotionally, energetically or physically.
If all this means that you are finding it hard to concentrate and focus, then the following breathing technique and yoga poses might be of help.
Why might yoga help?
The practice of yoga helps us to feel fully present in the moment and indeed traditionally the aim of yoga has been “yoga chitta vritti nirodha” – to quieten the chatter and noise of a busy mind. Trying to balance on one foot whilst mentally running through tomorrows to do list is incredibly hard! Science and modern research have backed up this traditional aim of “yoga chitta vritti nirodha” and we know that the practice of yoga can help with clarity of focus and reduce feelings of overwhelm.
The following asanas and pranayama might be particularly helpful if you are finding it hard to make decisions or focus on work. They could be practised alone, or you could put them together in a short routine.
Tadasana – Mountain Pose
At first glance this looks a little like you are simply standing but there is so much more to this foundation pose from which so many other asanas (poses) flow.
Stand with your feet together and arms by your side. Perhaps rock back and forth, side to side a little before coming to stillness with the weight distributed evenly between your feet. Imagine a line of energy drawing up from your feet and travelling all the way up your legs, through your torso and up through your neck and head as you draw the crown of your head up. Soften your shoulders, draw your shoulder blades down your back but then widen them across your back. Allow your arms to hang down the sides of your body with your fingers slightly apart. Ensure that the front ribs are not flaring out. Notice where you might be holding tension. Relax your jaw, your brow, soften your gaze and inhale and exhale through your mouth. Hold this pose for 10-20 seconds.
It is a great pose to improve your posture, strengthen your legs, calm your breathing, relieve tension and ultimately enable you to let go of distracting thoughts and feel focused and present.
Vrikshasana- Tree Pose
From standing in Mountain Pose shift your weight onto the right foot and lift the left leg, bend the knee and draw it into your chest. Place the left foot on the inner right thigh and draw your hands together in front of your chest. Engage the right quadricep muscle and gently press the left foot into the inner right thigh. This is the perfect pose to really use your drishti- your focused gaze. Ideally look straight ahead and focus on something still (a picture on the wall is great) which may not be you in a mirror!
Standing tall, lengthening your tailbone toward the floor, keeping the hips square, and drawing your lower abdomen in whilst lifting the chest but keeping the shoulders soft and relaxed.
There is a wonderful sense of calm which arises in this pose as you practise it with steadiness and ease in the breath and the body. Feel the energy rising through the body as you draw it from the ground and the standing foot and leg. Relax the standing foot (don’t grip the mat with your toes!), smile and take at least 10 long deep inhalations and exhalations through your nose.
Don’t forget to change sides!
Garudasana – Eagle pose
A pose rich in hindu mythology. It is named after Garuda , part eagle and part man in appearance and king of all the birds and the messenger of Lord Vishnu. Garuda appears in many tales of adventure and that alone is enough to spark imagination and curiosity.
As for the yoga asana named after Garuda, it requires elements of strength, flexibility but above all concentration hence it is great for clarity of mind and focus. You can step into this from Mountain or Tree pose.
From standing, bend both knees slightly and then keeping the right foot on the floor lift the left leg up and wrap it around your right leg. Squeeze your thighs together and enjoy the stretch for the hips, ankles, and calves. Raise your arms in front of you and cross the right arm on the inside of the left and then bend the elbows and whilst crossing your wrists bring your palms towards one another.
You can stay here, or you can draw your arms up and away from you feeling a more intense stretch across your shoulders or perhaps you could exhale and fold forwards drawing your arms over your legs and deepening the stretch across your back. Hold for a few breaths and rise as you inhale. Whilst standing upright use your drishti and gaze at your thumbs.
It’s a pose which resembles a giant hug and is incredibly calming whilst improving or balance and concentration.
If you find it hard to wrap the legs around then just take them as far as you comfortably can. Equally with the arms you could always bring your forearms together instead. Remember to change sides!
Bakasana – Crane pose
There really is nothing quite like a yoga arm balance to clear any swirling thoughts and really focus you mind and direct your energy. If you are new to yoga, then you may prefer to stay in a squat and take 10 inhalations and exhalations through your nose. Pop some blocks under your heels if that helps.
If you are flying up into Crane or indeed Crow pose place your knees on your upper arms and with control lift your feet off the floor. Exploring this arm balance and the relationship between the upward and downward flows of energy whilst strengthening your arms, abdominal muscles is incredibly empowering. It’s a great pose to improve mental strength, positive thinking and reduce anxiety. Its hard to think about much else whilst balancing!
Paschimottanasana- Seated Forward Fold
With your legs stretched out in front of you this pose is incredibly calming as you allow your upper body to fold forwards over your legs. It may be that your hands gently hold your feet, or you use a yoga strap or resistance band and wrap it around your feet. Avoid rounding the back and focus on feeling a lovely long extension for the back of the body and the spine.
The sense of calmness and clarity this pose encourages is so useful if you are feeling fatigued or perhaps feeling anxious or suffering brain fog.
Mindful deep breathing is such a simple yet effective tool to cultivate clear thinking. Slow, deep, and conscious breathing into the belly helps to lower your heart rate, blood pressure while calming the nervous system. Studies have shown that shallow breathing and stress affect the prefrontal cortex of the brain making it hard to focus.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama – Alternate Nostril Breathing
This wonderful breathing technique balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain helping us to achieve a clear state of mind.
Sitting comfortably, you use the thumb on the right hand to block off the right nostril and the right ring and little finger to block off the left nostril. You can add retention of the breath as you become more comfortable (closing both nostrils). A simple version is to block the right nostril and inhale through the left, close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril and close the right nostril and exhale through the left, inhale through the left nostril and continue gradually building up the number of rounds.
As Prasad Mahes said, “The mind is like water. When it turbulent it’s difficult to see. When its calm everything becomes clear”
Just taking a few minutes to explore some of these should hopefully improve your focus and turn that feeling of discombobulation into something more clearheaded.