Dharana - 6th Limb of Yoga
Classical yoga under Patanjali has 8 different "limbs" of yoga. The first "limb" is the Yamas or social contracts. The second "limb" are the Niyamas or contracts with oneself. The third "limb" is Asana or yoga poses, there are hundreds! The fourth "limb" is Pranayama or breath. The fifth "limb" is Pratyahara or turning inward! The sixth "limb" is Dharana or concentration.
In my opinion Dharana , is sense concentration, is focusing!
Concentrate! How many of you remember these exact words from your childhood?
Focus on your work, your task at hand. Concentrate. Focus.
Bringing the mind into a single focus.
- Come to a comfortable cross legged seated position.
- Make sure your knees are below your hips. Sit on a cushion if you need to and make that happen.
- Bring your elbows directly under your shoulders and your hands on your thighs faced down.
- Gently roll your shoulders back slightly opening your heart area. Very subtly.
- Have your chin parallel to the floor, close your mouth and deepen your breath through your nose.
- Now close your eyes and turn inside.
- Notice if there are areas of tension in your body. Simply relax them. Relax the tongue.
- Now simply focus on your breath. You should be relaxed?
- Concentrate on your breath.
- Do this for as long as you can until thoughts enter your mind. Voila!
- Now return to your concentration on your breath.
- Repeat. For a few times.
Now take it to the next level!
This time focus on the number 1! In your mind start at the base of the number and scan upward to the top and then back down again.
Then go to the number 2! Scan up, scan down! Then 3! All the way to 10 and then back down again.
See how far you can count without losing concentration. No matter how far you scan it is a simple exercise in training our minds to concentrate. The mind is like a muscle.
In my opinion, this is preparing us for the next limb of yoga, Dhyana, meditation.
And it is through meditation we really help ourselves in so many ways from overcoming the klesha's (Ignorance, Pride, Attachment, Aversion, Fear of Death ) to combating many ills of modern life. The net result can be less suffering and more freedom?