Dharana: Focusing with Intent

Last week, was the perfect week for me to dive right into pratyahara. Although I have to admit on Monday it felt like a near impossibility.  It was chaotic, stressful, and taking those few moments where I tried to separate myself from my senses felt really empowering.

Here is what really amazed me, I normally suffer from stomach pains and headaches when I’m dealing with stressful situations.  However; last week I had no symptoms.  The stress was there, but somehow it had become manageable.   Normally, a yoga class helps but when I’m really stressed (as much as I know that yoga will help), I find it hard to commit too an entire class.   In just those few moments where I embraced pratyahara helped relieve my anxiety.

I’m not saying it was easy.  Actually, there were moments, especially in my morning practice where it felt impossible.  However, I’m proud to say that each morning I preserved.  Some days the sensual deprivation lasted a minute, however, there was one day where I actually was able to meditate (eyes closed) for five minutes.  I know, to some of you, that may not sound much of an accomplishment.  But for me, a person whose mind is constantly stirring, the feeling was amazing.

This week I’m going to try to focus on the sixth limb of Ashatanga: Dharana.  Dharana literally means “unbending concentration of mind.” I love the idea of dharana, the fact that you can train both your mind and body to learn how to focus on only one thing.   The ultimate goal of dharana is to align the mind, body and ego with one single purpose/thought.

One of the techniques to practice yoga is to focus on a single inanimate object .  In some cases, the recommendation is to focus on the flame of a candle. However, you can use any stable object from a statue to a plant.

Benefits of Dharana:

  • Increase ability to focus
  • Have a clearer mind
  • Harness time and energy toward the task at hand versus distractions
  • Reduces overall frustration (by having clearer thoughts)
  • Paves the way for meditation

Techniques to Accomplish Dharana:

1)   Roll your eyes, upward and downward in one direction to increase concentration

2)   Focus on one object (keep a fixed gaze , try to not blink or close your eyes for as long as possible).  Enjoy this sensation.

3)   Clear your mind, focus your thoughts, energy and intention all on the stable object

4)   Remain in this state as long as you can focus on the object.

5)   Practice dharana regularly

In this world of multi tasking, I often forget how much I can accomplish when I focus on just one task. It’s such a rarity. Even in Savasana.  So I’ve decided that I’m going to try strengthening dharana in a variety of ways :

1)   Completing one task at a time (turning off distractions, TV, cell phones, music)

2)   Take my time reading, focus and absorb each and every word

3)   Actively practice focused concentration (extend the amount of time in this state)

4)   Take the time to enjoy this process

5)   Practice alternative ways of stilling the mind: savasana, mantras etc.

6)   Continue to incorporate the other six limbs on a regular basis

I’m looking forward to applying the skills that I’ve begun to learn over the past few weeks to accomplish a few moments of dharana. I’m not deluding myself, my focus is on a few moments.  I know that however long I maintain focused concentration is  a good thing: whether it is  30 seconds or 10 minutes.  This last seven weeks have been challenging but I’ve really enjoyed reviewing and applying the techniques of ashatanga.  It has been a great journey, simply remembering and reflecting on the fact that yoga is so much more than the postures.

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