To focus about two hours on the breath is a concentration exercise.
To improve concentration means to be able to focus over a period of time on one thing.
The mind learns to fade down all the distractions that might be around, the other yoginis, the noise outside, the hair that is falling in the face much too often. But also thoughts are supposed to fade down. Where to eat out for lunch should become unimportant during the practice time. The periods that we're able to focus can be prolonged. This is the challenge.
Concentration has so to say 2 aspects: First the the thing we want to concentrate and the length we are able to focus on that object.
I watched parts of the Mysore class when Sharath was in NY. It can be seen easily who has focus, concentration and who is distracted. It's not necessary to look at others. Me too, I adjust my hair much too often during my practice.
The reward when we're able to concentrate over a period of time is that we're likely to experience flow. And this feels great.
Currently I'm reading the book by Oliver Kahn "Ich, Erlofg kommt von innen" (available only in German language). Concentration is dedicated one chapter. Oli tried to watch the ball during the entire match. He didn't like to lose it with his eyes for a second. That way he was always prepared if the ball came close to the goal. This was his concentration exercise. He had to fade down spectators, but also the weather, sometimes it was minus 15 degrees. He only saw the ball, nothing else. Here one of his tips: When you want to improve your concentration, you must eat well, don't drink too much alcohol, be well-rested.
This is all true for Ashtanga yoginis and yogis. A healthy life style with breaks, enough sleep, healthy food improves the practice, the ability to concentrate. Ashtanga yoga can in fact serve as a coach, a guide in life. The starting point might be the wish to practice and perfect asanas. Soon it will "spoil" the entire life. I went to bed earlier i.e. to be relaxed in the morning when it was clear that Ashtanga yoga is so important to me that I'd be willing to make major life style changes. In my case this was getting up early in the morning. It was part of my self-image that I, this Ursula-thing likes to sleep long. Things changes, even my sleeping habits changed. I don't miss watching TV. So, it was only difficult in the beginning.
Ashtanga yoginis/yogis shall focus on the breath. Isn't it more suited for the auditive yoginis among us, i.e.. Today I focused on my throat where I can feel the breath. I also listened to the sound, which always reminds me of incoming and outgoing waves of the sea.
I practiced with the CD by Sharath till navasana, then I switched it off. I wanted to experiment with
my self-timer. The technique is easy, but one has to understand and experiment. I did this today. My timer and I started becoming friends. Sigh, not an easy approach.
Picture: I'm a bit confused about the position of my hands. The goal is now to move the hands and feet so far together that they are both totally on the mat. This seems to me a doable goal.
Time to enjoy the sun.