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How to incorporate Dharana (focused concentration) the sixth limb of the Yoga Sutra into your life.

NOTE If you just landed on this article please read the first article in this series first: 

What can an ancient text called the Yoga Sutras do for you?


This article includes a short introduction to the principles of Dharana + journal prompts + practical and easy ways to incorporate the concept into your life.


DHARANA – Focused concentration.

(Yoga Sutra III.1)


Dharana is the sixth limb of the Yoga Sutra and focuses solely on achieving a single point of concentration of the mind. This might sound simple, but trust me, this is a hard one.


Once you have moved through the Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, and Pratyahara you are ready to go deeper. This is where you start Dharana. Dharana is intense focus binding your attention and consciousness to a single point. Practicing Dharana will result in the refinement of your powers of concentration.


Practicing Dharana you fix your mind's attention on a particular object. It can be something internal, like the breath, a body part, or a chakra, or something external like an image, statue, or other objects. It is not important what object you choose to focus on; the purpose is to quiet the mind with this focused concentration.


By choosing an object with a positive message (like a favorite picture or an affirmation card or poster), you can increase the quality of your meditation, for example by choosing to meditate on forgiveness, you cultivate your ability to forgive.


When you focus intensely on one object, the rest of your mind tends to relax. When you practice concentration this way, there is less room for any other thoughts, memories, or the constant planning that you often mentally keep yourself busy with.


Dharana is an important step on your way to Dhyana meditation. You need to be able to keep your focus and attention and concentrate before you can move forward. Even though, the last three steps of the 8 limbs are all interconnected. You first need to be able to achieve a state of deep concentration in Dharana, before you continue.


Practicing Dharana creates a calm mind and a peaceful state. The mind is like a muscle, and you can train it like any other muscle. You can choose your thoughts instead of them choosing you. Dharana helps to focus and quiet your mind on your way to a deeper meditation, by giving the mind something to do.


Modern life demands a lot from you, and the constant fast pace, jumping from one thing to another, from emails to Facebook to TV to music, leaves the mind restless. It begins to get used to constant distractions, and the ability to hold focused attention quickly gets lost.


Ideally, you should be able to go in and out of Dharana whenever you want to. Being able to apply a steady focus when needed, and only allow the mind to focus on what you want it to. But before you get to this point, you can still enjoy the small moments of complete inner peace that you can find within this practice.


By integrating this practice into your life, you can develop the ability to concentrate fully on one thing at a time, whatever that may be.



buddha statue with tea light



How to practice Dharana.


The practice of yoga and any kind of physical exercise.


  • In your yoga practice, use the concept of Drishti (focused gaze) by letting your gaze rest softly on a point in front of you.
  • Begin and/or end your yoga practice with the repetition of a mantra. 
  • Keep a concentrated focus on your breathing, observing its rhythm and depth. 
  • Start your practice, with a clear intention for your practice.
  • Be self-aware not only in the poses but also doing mindful transitions between poses.
  • Don’t multitask, when exercising, focus entirely on the exercise at hand. 
  • Before starting an exercise, take a moment to visualize yourself performing it with perfect form and focus. 
  • Break down any complex exercises/poses into smaller parts and focus intently on perfecting each part.
  • After completing your training, spend a few minutes in quiet reflection or meditation.
  • Regularly visualize your goals and the path to achieving them. 


Applying the principles of Dharana to your life.


  • During your day choose to focus on one task at a time without multitasking. 
  • Be mindful of your breath and use it as a tool for cultivating concentration. 
  • Begin each day or activity with a clear intention, and know your purpose and outcome to focus your attention.
  • Designate specific times of the day or in your week when you check emails, social media, or other potential distractions. 
  • Practice single-focus meditation by focusing on a single object or concept. 
  • Spend time in nature, focusing on one aspect of nature, and let yourself emerge in it.
  • Engage in activities that naturally require concentration, such as puzzle-solving, reading, or knitting.
  • Reduce unnecessary noise and clutter in your environment. 
  • Keep a journal to reflect on your experiences with concentration. 
  • Practice actively listening to others without preparing your response while they're still speaking. 
  • Take a few moments each day to focus entirely on feeling gratitude. 


pages from the quick guide to the yoga sutrasGrab the Quick Guide to The Yoga Sutras 8 Limbs of Yoga

Important self-investigation.


The single most important concept of Dharana is a single-minded focus, so say goodbye to multitasking and embrace a focused and concentrated mind.


Can you remember the last time you were completely focused and immersed in an activity?

In doing something creative like painting and writing or something physical like dancing or running, your mind only focuses on that one thing, allowing for a single-minded focus. And this kind of total focus…it feels good right? It leaves you with a deep sense of peace -This is the essence of Dharana.


You can practice Dharana in meditation. Try to find a comfortable sitting position, one that does not steal too much of your attention and in which you can sit relaxed for a long time. If muscles begin to ache, the mind tends to get caught up in these sensations, and your concentration is quickly broken.


You can choose to close your eyes and focus on something internal or focus on an image or object in front of you. Imagine giving your mind freedom to roam but within a very limited area. You are the one to choose what this limited area is, and the mind is free to explore within the boundaries you have set (the object of attention). 


Try to meditate with this focused attention for as long as possible, start small, and then increase the time along the way. If your attention begins to wander, you just bring it back to your meditation object. Also be aware of the fact that memories, fantasies, etc. around your object of meditation are not Dharana meditation, bring your attention back to full closeness and awareness, without thoughts.


You can start with a larger area to concentrate on, so giving the mind a wider circle of freedom, and as you progress, you can make the object of your attention smaller and smaller.


There are many ways to start incorporating Dharana into your life.


Instead of browsing through magazines or the internet, try to read something substantial where your mind will have to focus for a while. 


When washing dishes, or cleaning your house focus solely on what you are doing, paying attention to your movements, sensations, and experiences. 


When you eat, focus on the food, and experience the smell, the taste, the texture, etc. 


When you go for a walk, try to put your phone away (and on mute!) and instead place your attention on your surroundings. 


Contemplation and Journal prompts on the principles of Dharana.


  1. What objects, sounds, or practices help you achieve a state of concentrated focus? How can you utilize this in your daily life?
  2. Do you have any challenges with your concentration during meditation, yoga, or daily activities? What recurring patterns turn up? How can you address them?
  3. What activity or object of focus allows you to become fully absorbed? Why do you think this is?
  4. How can you apply the principle of Dharana to improve your daily routines, work, or studies? 
  5. When practicing Dharana, what physical sensations do you notice in your body? How does your body respond to deep concentration?
  6. Reflect on how achieving a state of Dharana affects your emotional state. Do you notice any changes in your mood, stress levels, or overall emotional well-being?
  7. How does your environment impact your ability to concentrate? What would your ideal environment be like? How can you achieve this?
  8. Have you discovered any connection between your breath and your ability to concentrate? What is it?
  9. How can the concept of Dharana complement and enhance your practice of other limbs of yoga?
  10. What are your goals for incorporating Dharana more deeply into your life? How do you plan to achieve them?


Ready to take the next step - Dhyana!


Book cover The quick guide to the yoga sutrasGrab the Quick Guide to The Yoga Sutras 8 Limbs of Yoga


Disclaimer

The information found in this blog post is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for a health professional's advice. If you are struggling with health issues please seek professional help. The use of any information provided in this blog post is solely at your own risk.


Author Mette Rosenqvist


she/her

With 10 years of supporting women release and manage emotional and physical pain to achieve optimal health, Mette is the seasoned coach and blogger behind MeRoyoga, a Holistic Health website. Dedicated to empowering women of all ages and backgrounds, her work is based on cultivating mind-body awareness and self-regulation through compassionate inquiry. As a Multi passionate coach, Mette incorporates several healing modalities to create bespoken sessions prioritizing inclusion, meaning, and accessibility and thrives on helping women discover all the choices available to them so they can build trust and safety in themselves, and move through life present, centered, and empowered.




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