This week in our classes here at The Yoga Room, we worked the 6th Limb of Yoga: Dharana. “Dhr” means to hold. The essential idea in the concept of dharana is holding the concentration or focus of attention in one direction. An example traditionally used to explain dharana is to imagine a large reservoir of water used by farmers for watering their fields. There are channels leading away from the reservoir in different directions. If the farmer has dug all the channels the same depth, the water runs equally in all directions. But if one channel is deeper than the others, more water flows through it. This is what happens in dharana: we create the conditions for the mind to focus its attention in one direction instead of going out in many different directions. We encourage one particular activity of the mind and, the more intense it becomes, the more the other activities of the mind fall away.
Dharana is therefore the condition in which the mind focuses and concentrates exclusively on one point. This point can be anything at all, but it is always just a single object.
To work with this concept of Dharana, I asked students to focus their attention on just one thing throughout their practice. Some examples they could choose from included focusing on their alignment in postures, focusing on their breath, focusing on sensations in their body, focusing on relaxing into postures, and focusing on a part of their body that needed attention or healing. I reminded them throughout class to keep bringing their awareness back to that one thing, and to not get frustrated if it was challenging to do. Though it is not easy to keep your mind focused on only one thing, I hoped that students would notice an improved sense of concentration when we finished our practice, as well as a calmer, clearer mind. At the end of one class a student remarked, “It was actually really nice to only have to think about one thing for the hour, instead of all the other things I have to think about constantly during the day!”
Here is a perfect example of dharana. Wouldn’t you agree? :)