8 Ayurvedic Habits to Optimize Your Focus
Simply by virtue of the fact that you are here reading this article, it’s probably safe to assume that you are someone who is up to something in life. You’re likely on a path to discovering how to live your best life and offer your greatest gifts to the world while supporting yourself and those around you.
As someone on that path, you know that it takes quite a bit of passion, determination, and focus.
Yet, in today’s attention economy—a fast paced world of instant communication, social media scrolling, and sensationalized news cycles all vying for your attention—it can be easy to feel constantly distracted.
Awareness and concentration are essential for your well-being. Not to mention maintaining some sense of inner peace! Fortunately, Ayurvedic wisdom has a lot to offer to support our best focus.
Nourishing the Channel of the Mind
Ayurveda views the topic of mental health through the lens of the srotamsi, or the channels of the body. Specifically, the channel of the mind is known in Sanskrit as manovaha srotas, or that which carries thought, feelings, and emotions. This channel is in charge of all mental activity, including thinking and investigating, defining goals and targets, and expressing oneself.
In the West, the mind is often thought to exist in the brain. Ayurveda believes the channel of the mind resides subtly in the hridaya (heart) and the ten dhamanis (major blood vessels) that originate from it.
The following daily routine is designed to do just that. Follow these suggestions to any extent that you are able—don’t feel like you have to complete the whole list every day in order for this to be effective. Each small step you take to support yourself will contribute to a calm, clear, and actively engaged mind.
8 Daily Rituals to Feel More Focused
1. Fine Tune Your Sleep Schedule
This may be obvious, but a focused mind begins as a rested mind. If you are struggling to get enough restful sleep at night, it will impact your ability to focus during the day.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, it is ideal to go to sleep at around 10 p.m.— after having turned off electronics at least 30 minutes prior. After 10 p.m., pitta becomes active and your mind will re-engage, making sleep more difficult.
Going to sleep by 10 p.m. also makes it easier to rise with the sun, a key Ayurvedic practice, and still feel rested. Rising at around 6 a.m. gets you into momentum and creates space for mindfulness practice before you begin your day.
2. Clear Your Mind with Nasya Oil
The practice is slightly stimulating, helping to balance sluggish kapha dosha in the mind—and for that reason is best done in the morning. Start with 3–5 drops in each nostril, on an empty stomach. Here’s an instructional video to help you get started with this enlivening practice.
3. Begin Your Day with Mindfulness
As you slowly awaken your body, take about 30 minutes to awaken your mind as well. Doing so in the early morning invites you to tap into the ethereal, creative, and agile energies of vata first thing in the morning.
Perhaps you have your own mindfulness practice already, or perhaps you’re seeking something new. If you’d like, you can start with a simple meditation practice of closing your eyes and focusing on your natural inhalations and exhalations.
Or, try a pranayama practice such as Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath) or a simple Ujjayi Pranayama (Breath of Victory). Any of these breathwork practices will help to clear and focus your mind as you begin your day.
4. Get Moving in the Morning
After you ease into your morning with mindfulness, it’s time to kick up the momentum with your movement practice—a workout, hike, yoga, or whatever you do to get your body moving. Doing so between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. helps balance the heaviness of kapha, while also leveraging kapha’s tendency toward structure to support you to build muscle.
If you’re working with your own yoga practice, start with Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar) and be sure to weave in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and Tree Pose (Vrksasana), both of which are supportive for a clear, focused mind.
5. Nourish Your Body with Sattvic Foods
Manovaha srotas is nourished by anything with a sattvic quality. Sattva is a subtle form of pitta that is the energy of cognition, the light of consciousness, and the motive for perception. No wonder it is important for mental well-being!
Sattvic foods are “those that augment lifespan (ayu), purity, strength, health, happiness, and cheerfulness, which are tasty and sufficiently oily (snigdha), substantial, and agreeable.”
But don’t get carried away thinking that this means you should be eating a bunch of sugary or processed sweets. The Ayurvedic texts cite wheat, rice, barley, corn, milk, ghee, butter, honey, dried ginger, fresh vegetables, mung beans, and pure water as being sattvic in nature—so work these into your healthy diet throughout your day.
6. Support Your Mind with Herbs
To nourish manovaha srotas, we can also turn to our herbal allies. Two of the most important herbs for opening and clearing the mind are tulsi (holy basil) and gotu kola (brahmi)—both of which offer support for awareness and concentration.
- Take a dropper full of Focus liquid extract before you sit down to work on a project, enter a meeting, or seek to create something new.
- Alternatively, take 1–2 tablets of Mental Clarity anytime you need to clear your mind, enhance intelligence, and cultivate emotional stability.
7. Do Your Most Focused Work Mid-Day
The mind is most active and generative when pitta is at its highest points during the day. This occurs between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is highest in the sky. Pitta, and its subtle essence of tejas, are both responsible for intelligence, discernment, and direction.
Ideally, you work in 90 minute waves of productivity—with walking breaks on either side of that timeframe to allow your mind to reset. After 2 p.m., consider getting into a more playful, connected, or reflective practice that also serves your mission and well-being.
8. Consider Doing a Seasonal Cleanse
The buildup of metabolic toxins (ama) in the body can also clog the channels of manovaha srotas, inhibiting focus. To maintain clear channels for awareness and concentration, it’s helpful to take the time to engage in the Ayurvedic practice of seasonal cleansing of both the body and mind.
This means taking a week or so to ditch processed food and substances in favor of cleansing foods (like kitchari), as well as taking some space from work and media consumption. Cleansing is important at the juncture between seasons to clear excess doshas, ignite agni, and eliminate channel-blocking toxins that prevent clear processing of nutrients, thoughts, emotions, and information.
By following these recommendations, you will give yourself the best chance to access the state of mind known as ekagra, or the one-pointed focused mind that solves problems easily. Indeed, this precious state of mind that is worth cultivating for ourselves, and for the world.