Dharana, meaning attention or concentration, is the sixth limb of yoga. This is the first stage in the inner journey toward freedom from suffering. To practice dharana is to set your attention on one particular thing. This thing can be a mantra, idea, or pretty much anything neutral. You can focus on your belly button if you want to! A lot of people consider this limb of yoga to be the same thing as mindfulness. They are very similar, but they are not the same. When we are practicing mindfulness we are trying to step outside ourselves and observe our thoughts. With dharana, we are concentrating on a single thing, putting all of our concentration on that one thing and holding it there. Patanjali considers concentration to be key to meditation in his system. To explain a little deeper, when you are practicing dharana you are really fixing your mind on one thing. This helps to keep the mind focused and to stop bouncing out of control. Do this, according to Patanjali, and you become free of conflict. When you are successfully focusing on your one thing, you allow yourself the time to calm down and be still, essentially becoming one with the moment. This makes entering into a meditative state, or Dhyana the next limb of yoga, easier.
When you are practicing dharana, you are harnessing all the chaos of the mind and giving your one thing your undivided attention. Remember, when you become so fully absorbed in your one thing and there is no effort in it, that is when you are truly practicing the sixth limb of yoga. This requires you to come to the mat, or chair, or wherever you practice dharana, to come with intention, ease, softness, and relaxation. If you are still a little unsure or confused, think of the last time you were doing something and lost time while you did it. This could be gardening, listening to beautiful music, working on a project. Time seemed to fly by because you were focused on one thing, you were in the zone. It had all your concentration. There are a few tried-and-true techniques to help you practice dharana. Some examples include candle gazing (please do this in a safe environment), focus on the breath, using a mantra, visualization, or using the vibration of sound. Another way to practice this sixth limb of yoga is to work on your balance poses or asanas. While you are trying to breathe and balance, you are focusing totally on the alignment of your body or breathing through it. This is a great example of how the limbs of yoga are all connected and work together to build upon each other. If you need more examples, Krista at Aligned with Green Wellness is always available to help you. Or you could take a class and put all of these limbs that you have read about into practice. To see her schedule for classes, please visit https://www.alignedwithgreen.com/.