dharana: cultivate focus
The 8-limbed path of yoga lays out a process for interiorizing your attention that eventually leads to a state of bliss. The process begins with the way you relate to the world (yama), then to yourself (niyama), body (asana), breath (pranayama), and inward focus of attention (pratyahara). All of this leads steadily towards deeper states of yoga, including states of Concentration (dharana), the 6th of 8 limbs of practice.
In concentration, awareness harmoniously flows towards a single object of focus. If you practice the first 5 limbs, you have laid the groundwork that will allow you to focus. It will also prepare you for entering into states of meditation and bliss (the final 2 limbs).
You might find yourself wondering what exactly you should direct your awareness towards? Just about anything: a mantra, your breath, bodily sensations, your heart, the pit of your throat, your navel, etc...one of my favourite recommendations from the Yoga Sutras is to focus on friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity (collectively known as the brahmaviharas) in order to become imbued with their energies.
Intention/Centering Thought: "My mind is quiet, focused and calm."
Breath/Meditation: Inhale and count to 8; exhale and count to 8
On the Mat: Practice some challenging balancing poses. It's hard to focus on anything other than the task of staying upright. (See the video below for a challenging standing balance pose practice)
Off the Mat: Cut down on multi-tasking. Practice pouring all of your focus and energy into just one thing at a time.
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Amanda Tripp, Yoga/body nerd and woman of a 1000 opinions