The 8 Limbs of Yoga: Dharana "Concentration"

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

We live in a rushed society where multitasking amidst the chaos is the norm. Writing emails and answering phone calls, eating lunch while organizing work schedules and scrolling through social media, driving while talking on the phone, the list goes on. The multitasking mind is like the jack of all trades…but the master of none. These competing thoughts from our fast-paced lives often become apparent when we sit down to meditate. “I’m just not good at meditating” is something we frequently hear when we attempt to bring our attention to a single point of focus. Dealing with the distractions of the mind is no easy feat, which is why we practice Dharana, or concentration. When we focus the mind intently to one point, the rest of the mind quiets down, leaving less room for internal distractions.

Dharana, or concentration, is the sixth step on Patanjali’s eightfold path, and an important precursor to move to the final two steps: Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (union). The final three steps on the eight-limbed path (Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi), also called ‘Samyama’, are all closely interconnected. Samyama is an internal process where the mind is purified. Through practicing Dharana, we become more focused and able to move toward meditation and finally, samadhi.

We can practice Dharana by focusing on something internal or external. Internally, you can bring your focus to one of your chakras, your breath, or use a mantra. Externally, you can practice by focusing your attention on an object or particular point; for example, staring intently at a flame (trataka), or finding your drishti (gaze point) in asana practice. Our entire purpose of practicing Dharana is to refine our focus without any internal distractions. As a result of this practice, we gain control of the monkey mind and become more conscious and aware of the nature of the mind. When we are practicing Dharana, we calm our minds and step away from the busy routines that we unconsciously follow. In doing so, we can begin to understand our true nature.

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