Dharana is the 6th limb of the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga, which is the practice of increased focus and concentration on a singular point. Whereas pranayama is the art of breathing and pratyahara is the raising of self-awareness, dharana is the art of increasing focus and concentration in a particular direction, or drishti (in sanskrit) without losing focus or concentration.
What is the Meaning of Dharana?
Dharana is derived from the Sanskrit word dhar or dhri, which is a noun that translates to hold, carry, maintain, or resolve. The word dharana means to focus and concentrate the mind on one point or object without letting the mind waiver. Gregor Maehle, a teacher of Ashtanga Yoga, defines the concept of dharana as: “the mind thinks about one object and avoids other thoughts; awareness of the object is still interrupted.” (2006: p. 234)
Purpose of Dharana
The purpose of dharana is to bind the consciousness to one single point, place, object or idea for the purpose of staying in a state of deep concentration meditation without letting the mind wander. Not only does it allow the seeker to be completely focused on themselves and their surroundings without any distractions, having laser-focus facilitates confidence, certainty and decisiveness.
5 Types of Dharana
There are 5 types of dharana:
This is the practice of focusing on a solid object. This includes meditating using sensory awareness, visualization, deep breathing, or mantras.
This is the practice of focusing on ideas and non-dense matter, such as matter, energy, senses, and consciousness.
This is the practice of seeking joy while in a meditative state.
This is the practice of focusing on the individuality of the self, or the “I” that is a core part of one’s ego.
Concentration Without Objects
Whereas the other four types of dharanas focus on a particular object, idea or feeling, achieving a state of concentration without an object, idea or feeling is to focus on the aspects of the mind’s concentration in it’s initial state of being. This is hard to achieve, although with practice, can be accomplished.
How to Practice Dharana
One can practice dharana by simply increasing focus and concentration without letting the consciousness waiver. First, find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes. Then, focus your mind on a particular point, such as a body part, mantra, chakra or breath, as you sit in calm stillness. A mantra can be something as simple as a sound or word in any language. The purpose of a mantra is to train the mind to let the mantra occupy most of the brain’s processes and not let it waiver.
You could also keep your eyes open and focus on a physical object, such as a deity’s statue or candle flame. The most important part is to make your focus laser-targeted, and not let the mind wander from your laser-focus.