When we are deep in concentration, the only thing on our mind is that one activity. Whether we are writing, drawing, running, or dancing, at that moment our mind is focused solely on that thing. Interestingly, this peaceful state of mind can be induced through yoga. One of the eight limbs of yoga, Dharana is the total concentration of the mind. In this article, we explore the principle in more detail. If you’re interested in practicing Dharana, you’ll need to pick up a lightweight yoga top and some comfy bottoms.
Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga. When we have moved along the path through asana practice, meditation, and control of the senses, we are able to delve deeper into the practice. At this stage in our yoga journey, we are able to start Dharana.
To practice Dharana, we must learn to fix the mind on one specific thing. Depending on your preference, this can either be something internal, like a part of the body or a chakra, or something external like a piece of art, a photograph, or another object. As long as you are able to focus solely on that thing, it doesn’t matter what the object is. The goal of this exercise is to achieve total concentration and a quiet mind. When we concentrate intensely on one thing, the rest of our mind will start to quiet down. During this process, there is little room for other other thoughts, memories, or planning that usually keeps the mind busy.
While Dharana is beneficial in its own right, it’s also necessary to move onto the next step of the eight limbs of yoga. After we have achieved Dharana, we can begin to work on Dhyana, which focusses on meditation. Before we can move further on the path, we need to be able to concentrate without distraction. The last three steps on the eightfold path represent internal yoga, focussing on the activities of the mind instead of the physical senses. Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi are all closely connected. With this in mind, practicing Dhyana and Samadhi will be easier once we have mastered Dharana. Once we have achieved deep concentration with Dharana, we can move onto Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (union with the divine).
For best results, it’s important to find a comfortable position when you practice Dharana. Typically, a seated position that doesn’t take too much effort to stay in is best. If your muscles are being pulled or your body feels uncomfortable, your mind will focus on the sensations and lose concentration.
Once you’ve found a comfortable position, you can either close your eyes and focus on something within you or concentrate on an object or picture in front of you. To do this easily, imagine giving your mind the freedom to wander, but in a restricted area. The ‘restricted area’ can be anywhere you choose, and your mind should be free to explore within this space. If you’re struggling, start with a wider area to concentrate on. As you become more experienced, the area can become smaller and smaller.
Like any type of yoga, Dharana has a variety of great benefits. When we practice it, our mind becomes still and peaceful. By concentrating on a single area and practicing control, we can start to strengthen the mind. Through Dharana, we can train the mind as a muscle and gain control of the thoughts that come and go.
Through regular practice, Dharana can improve our general concentration in day-to-day life. Eventually, we’ll be able to focus without the mind flitting between different topics. This will make various aspects of life easier including school, work, and other day-to-day activities.
Another benefit of Dharana is that it makes meditation easier. Practicing the technique helps to quiet the mind and focus on one specific area. This can be especially helpful for those who struggle to meditate. Dharana allows us to become more in tune with our mind and become aware of it throughout the day. This can be particularly beneficial when we are experiencing strong emotions; in these circumstances, Dharana allows us to balance our feelings and achieve a place of rest.
As well as practicing Dharana on the mat, we should strive to remain in a state of focus throughout the entire day. During this time, we should only focus on the task at hand. This allows the mind to concentrate on one activity at a time as we are completely in control. While this is the ultimate goal, it can take time and dedication to achieve. Before we reach this point, we can use Dharana periodically to enjoy the small moments.
In the busyness of modern life, we often find ourselves jumping from one task to another. All too often, this is even the case during our resting hours. After a long day at the office, many of us like to relax in front of the TV. If we give the programme our undivided attention, there is no problem with this; the issues arise when we try to multitask, keeping one eye on the TV and the other on social media. Jumping from one activity to the other makes the mind restless. This means that instead of giving our brain some well-deserved downtime, we are working just as hard as we did at work.
To integrate Dharana into your life, begin by trying to focus on one thing at a time. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, so long as it has your undivided attention. When you have dinner, concentrate on eating instead of trying to watch television or browse through Facebook at the same time. When you go for a run, just run and don’t chat with your friends or running partner.
Though Dharana may not be easy to practice, the time and dedication it requires are well worth it. Not only will the practice benefit your yoga journey, but it will also better your day to day life, too. When you have mastered the basics, you can slowly move towards focussed concentration, meditation, and eventually towards unity with the whole. If you’re unsure of where to begin, find a yoga class that teaches Dharana. Before your first class, pick up a breathable yoga bra to keep you comfy during the session.