Dharana (Focus of the mind)
During the study of the eight limbs of yoga, we may categorize it into two parts. While the first four limbs of yoga deal with the control of the external stimuli and can be categorized into one part, the last four limbs of yoga may be thought of as more internal components.
Pratyahara, which we discussed in our last post, is all about withdrawing one’s senses from the external objects and dwelling internally. The next three limbs of yoga, namely Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi, deal with the internal stimuli and how to control the wavering mind.
These three aspects of yoga are closely linked to each other and are also known as Antara yoga or internalization. Dharana, the sixth limb of the Äshtanga (“eight limbs”) yoga deals with concentration. Dharana literally means “steady concentration of the mind”.
According to yoga gurus, after the body is physically tempered by the asanas, the mind by pranayama, and the senses by Pratyahara, the student is ready for the sixth stage or the Dharana stage. In this stage, your main aim is to learn to focus your mind on only one point. You should be able to get so engrossed in this task that no external or internal stimuli waver your concentration.
Sometimes, the mind is unable to focus on a single task and races around, wavering with lots of worries, ideas, memories, songs and even passing judgments on other people. When we practice Dharana, we concentrate wholeheartedly on one point of focus, giving it our whole attention.
Dharana is also known as receptive concentration, wherein conditions are created by a practitioner that would help him focus on a single object or in a single direction rather than allowing the mind to concentrate in numerous directions. Ideally speaking, Dharana should be practiced every moment so as to gain complete control over the body and the mind.
The first step to practice Dharana yoga is to purify the mind. Without purification of mind, you will not be able to concentrate on a single object. You can concentrate on any single object like an apple, pencil, a loving friend, flower; any abstract object like flames; any mantra or syllable, or even gurus or God.
* If you are hungry or suffering from an ailment, then it is always difficult to practice concentration.
* It is sometimes frustrating and tiring for a beginner, as it takes lots of effort to tame the wandering mind and making it focus on a single entity. It requires patience and practice to concentrate according to your will.
* Start from concentrating on large objects and then move on to smaller and subtle objects.
Practicing Dharana is advantageous as helps in channeling our thoughts onto a single entity. It also helps in balancing the struggles against restlessness, anger, and expectations. It helps to close the mind to distractions and steadies it by helping to cease the fluctuating thoughts.