In this month of Wonder, I decided to spend two weeks looking at Yoga Philosophy, as there is so much to explore, and so much to discover. One of the beautiful things about the study of yoga is that the more you dive in, the more there is to discover. When I first started studying Yoga as an art, a science, a spiritual practice, I was overwhelmed by all the directions this practice can be taken. And then, as I began to take it all in, it becomes more and more simple, and the threads start to link back together.
The eight limbs of yoga operate much in this fashion. In this particular vein of study, there are lessons to be learned and integrated, and there are some paths that can be taken even further. As we have discussed over the almost TWO years! 🙂 of this blog, the limb of pranayama has So many variations and opportunities.
This week, we take a look at the limb of Dharna, or Concentration. Last month we took a look at Pratyahara, the withdrawal or removal of the senses, which flows beautifully into the concept of Concentration. As we develop the ability to let go of sensory input, we create the space to work on our ability to concentrate. Devoting time to concentration is important to the practice of yoga, and to our lives both on and off the mat.
On our mats, we use the ability to concentrate to draw our awareness to the breath, and to guide the mind back to the breath when it wanders. We also bring our attention back to our postures, this concentration is often noticed in balance poses, and in those postures that are less familiar to us. In those moments, we bring all of our focus to how our bodies are moving, how the breath is aligning with our movements, and often times finding moments of quiet in the mind.
As we discussed recently, we have meditation and pranayama practices that assist with honing our concentration. Our Yoga Sutras recommends that when we find a practice that we connect with, spending some time with that practice. For some people it is mantra meditation, or chanting, for others it is alternate nostril breath. This suggestion stems from the idea that the deeper we get into the practice, the more calm and quiet we will find.
Through concentration we develop the skills to slip more easily into these moments of peace. Just as performing an asana over and over allows us to move deeper into this space, developing dharna, is the same. Over time concentration becomes easier, as we develop habits and patterns! We will next month link this to the next limb, Dhyana: Meditation!