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The Eight Limbs of Yoga - Dharana

Welcome to this week’s discussion on the guiding principles of the science of Yoga - the Eight Limbs.


This week we discuss and examine the sixth Limb, ‘Dharana’.


As with the previous Limb, ‘Pratyahara’, our practice moves away from the external and the focus of the aspiring yogi becomes ever more reflective; not so much concerned with learning anything, per se, but with the dropping of misconceptions and false perceptions that we hold about who we are and the abilities we naturally possess.


As we explore the second half of the Eight Limbs, we will see these principles building upon each other into ever more contemplative and reflective practices. These practices lay the path towards true meditation and the realisation of absolute union within ourselves and with the Universe.


The yogi continues their journey to the pure, clear recognition that we are one and the same with the Divine Source and that there is no separation in our experience of self and other.


Dharana:


‘Dharana’ means ‘concentration/collection of the mind’; the original Sanskrit can also be translated as ‘holding steady’ or ‘single focus’.


Dharana builds upon and deepens the practice of Pratyahara by refining the withdrawal of stimuli to the senses further towards a single-pointed concentration and focus. It is the practice of training the yogi’s mind in a particular direction without allowing that focus and concentration to be broken.


The purpose of Dharana is to bring the full, unwavering force of our consciousness to a single point in order to cultivate and maintain a state of deep concentration that becomes unbreakable. This training of the mind to concentrate is the foundation of yogic meditation.


The mind continually fluctuates in its attention, moving rapidly from one thought to the next; always examining, questioning, analysing and making judgements - the mind constantly reacts to external and internal stimuli. Naturally there will be thoughts and impressions that arise within this practice; this is simply the nature of the mind, but the yogi continually brings their attentiveness back towards the single point of concentration.


The practice of Dharana is often performed through focusing on a material object, such as a candle flame or the repetition of a sacred mantra. There is the recognition that the yogi and the object on which their concentration is turned are distinct. There is the yogi and there is the object. The object is there solely to provide that single point on which the mind can train itself; nothing more and nothing less.


Dharana can be seen as the basis of modern-day practices, such as mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches the practitioner to simply be ‘mindful’ of what they are doing, from one moment to the next moment, in order to increase self-awareness and a calm, peaceful state. Dharana takes this ‘mindfulness’ further by giving the mind just one thing to be full of - one breath to the next breath and one moment to the next moment - there is just the concentration of the yogi and the object on which they are concentrating.


And within this concentration of the mind, the mind becomes calm.


Matt ~ The Bearded Naked Yogi

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