Dharana is the sixth limb of yoga. It means concentration. The Sanskrit word dharana has the root dhr which means ‘to fix’ or ‘hold firmly’.
Concentration is holding the mind on one form of object steadily for a long time.Patanjali, Yoga Sutras, III-I
The classic concentration practice in yoga is tratak. This practice involves sitting and gazing at a candle flame without blinking. Once the eyes become tired the practitioner closes the eyes and continues to view the after image of the candle flame in their mind. When the after image disappears the practitioner opens their eyes and continues focussing on the candle flame in front of them. Ideally the practice should take about 10-20 minutes to be effective. This practice aids concentration.
Your mind can be trained to concentrate on any object for example an apple, a leaf, a flower or any object in nature. The mind can concentrate on sounds or sensations in the body. Or focus on a mandala or yantra. The point of focus is endless and up to the practitioner to decide what suits best. Such concentration can then be brought to bear on daily tasks and life in general.
Dhyana is the seventh limb of yoga and means meditation.
Through regular meditation, the mind becomes clear and pure. The subconscious mind releases hidden knowledge that allows a better understanding of oneself and our relationship to the world.Swami Vishnu-Devananda¹
There are many forms of meditation available and it is for the practitioner to explore which meditation best suits his/her own being. The simplest one is to sit and focus on the breath though many might find this quite difficult at first.
The benefits of regular meditation are enormous ranging from creating a better link between mind, body and spirit to promoting calmness of mind and inner clarity to transformation of the personality to a closer connection with the divine. The secret is to practise meditation on a regular basis.
This A-Z series of blogs focuses on unpacking the Sanskrit terms used in yoga.
¹The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, (2003) The Sivananda Book of Meditation, GAIA BOOKS P.7