Dharana or Concentration in yoga is the sixth stage or step in the eight-limbed Ashtanga Yoga. Dharana is explained in the Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali as focusing the mind at a point or a centre. It has to be practiced after internalizing the mind through the process of Pratyahara (fifth stage in Ashtanga Yoga). Dharana leads to Dhyana or meditation (the 7th Stage of Ashtanga Yoga).
In the 8-fold path of yoga, Dharana is considered among the internal limbs of yoga (along with Dhyana and Samadhi). The internal limbs of yoga are part of Raja Yoga or the royal path to liberation.
In Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Dharana is described as “Deshah bandhah chittasya dharana”.
Here Deshah means place, point, centre, spot or object.
Bandhah means to bind, hold, unite, fix or focus.
Chittasya means of the mind or consciousness.
Dharana means concentration or focussing.
So, Dharana can be translated as the process of focusing or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place; or in simple terms, Concentration.
Dharana is also mentioned in Gheranda Samhita where it is clubbed under the practice of Mudras. Here the focus is on concentrating on the five chakras starting from Mooladhara Chakra (root centre) to the Vishhudhi Chakra (throat centre). This is called Pancha Dharana or Concentration on the five centres.
How to do Dharana or Concentration in Yoga?
Dharana or concentration in yoga can be on any object, external or internal. To start with, one has to choose an object for concentration. Externally, it can be a candle flame or a dot on the wall or a picture of your desired deity or any other object like the symbol of Om, cross, star, any yantra, etc. Internally, one can choose to concentrate on internal light at the eyebrow or the heart centre or on one of the energy centres or chakras in the body, or simply on the breath. Or just focus your attention at the tip of the nose or the eye brow centre. One may even concentrate on the sound a chosen mantra.
Please remember that during Concentration, the mind has to put effort to focus attention at a point. Practice this for some time. In due course, the attention can be maintained as a continuous flow even without any effort. When effort ceases, then you have moved on to the process of Dhyana or meditation. Meditation is always effortless while concentration needs effort.
This Dharana or concentration in yoga is a prelude to Dhyana or meditation.
To master Dharana, one has to prepare the mind with practices related to Pratyahara or internalizing the mind. It is Pratyahara that leads us to process of Dharana.
Benefits of Dharana or Concentration in Yoga
- Dharana leads us to the higher states of Dhayana and Samadhi in progressive stages.
- It removes Vikshepa or the agitation of the mind and creates calmness and peace inside.
- Practice of Dharana or concentration in yoga can improve memory and attention in our day to day activities.
- According to Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Dharana on esoteric subjects along with Dhyana and Samadhi can give Siddhis or supernatural powers.