This is the tenth in a series of articles on how to practise yoga, in consultation with Ayurvedic and Yoga Consultant Dr Pushpika Attanayake. This week’s discussion on utilizing the benefits of yoga for improvement of memory and concentration continues from the previous week.

Trataka involves concentrating on a steady candle flame. The point here is visualizing and concentrating on the image after closing the eyes. Candle flame is used since it is known to produce the best after-effect.

This posture should be tried when it is dark, with the lights off.

1. Be seated in a comfortable meditative posture or a squatting position. Keep your spine erect.

2. Place a candle on a stool or a table, so that the candle wick is on level with your eyes when in the sitting position. This should be a non-windy place, since the flame should be stable. The candle should ideally be at arms length. Those wearing spectacles should remove them before practising this pose. Please adjust the distance between candle and the eyes, so you get a clear image.

3. Relax your eyes and gaze at the wick of the flame. The focus should be on the top end of the wick, as the candle burns. It’s best to avoid blinking, since it interferes with the formation of a clear inner image.

4. After a minute or two, your eyes would tire or begin to water. This is quite normal. When this happens, close your eyes slowly.

5. With your eyes closed, stare at the imprint the flame has left at the centre of the eyebrow. If you cannot see it, practise until you do. Keep eyes closed until you can see the image.

6. Restart once the image fades.

7. Repeat the process three times.

8. At the end of the practice, wrap your hands together to create warmth. Bring your palms over the eyes and open the eyes.

Dr Attanayake recommends this pose for those who need to improve their concentration.garudasana

1. Stand straight with your toes and ankles touching, your pelvis perpendicular to the floor and your shoulders relaxed. Arms should rest  by your sides.

2. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes towards the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf.

3. Stretch your arms straight forward, parallel to the floor, and spread your shoulder blades wide across the back of your torso.

4. Cross the arms in front of your torso so that the right arm is above the left, then bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise the forearms perpendicular to the floor. The backs of your hands should be facing each other.

5. Press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so that the palms are now facing each other. The thumb of the right hand should pass in front of the finger of the left.

6. Press the palms together as much as possible and lift your elbows up, stretching the fingers toward the ceiling.

7. Stay in this pose for 15 to 30 seconds, then go back to step 1.

8. Repeat for the same length of time, with the arms and legs reversed.

“This posture is especially helpful in improving memory and concentration,” says Dr. Attanayake.vrikshasana

1. Stand straight, with your toes and ankles touching, your pelvis perpendicular to the floor and your shoulders relaxed. Arms should rest  by your sides.

2. Ground  your left foot, especially focusing on the big toes and joint.

3. Then, lift your right leg, folding at the knee. Place the sole of the right foot up against the upper left inner thigh with the toes pointing downwards, and the folded leg perpendicular to the standing leg. Make sure your hips are even.

4. Once you have found balance, fold the hands in front of your chest in a prayer position.

5. Next, stretch the arms above your head with your gaze fixed in front of you.

6. After that, curl your chest back and look up. Keep the balance and hold for as long as possible.

7. Repeat with the left leg.