In my last two posts, we’ve discussed pratyhara, which is the removal of attention from distractions, then dharana, which is concentration and can only occur after pratyhara. If Dharana is practiced, it continues to dhyana, or meditation. Before meditation can happen, the mind must be able to concentrate. The techniques that are taught in order to help people meditate are in an effort to extend concentration.

During asana, we focus our attention on the physical sensations. As our practice deepens, we begin to recognize the subtle energy body, but from the point of view of the witness. Developing witness consciousness is a step one takes when they are ready to use yoga for more than exercise. I suggest to my students that they practice as if they were their best friend or a sibling. As the witness, we are observing life’s events from that part of us that is free from human emotions and judgements. Therefore, if we do an asana practice as the witness, we observe, dispassionately, the sensations in the body, the breath, and all the information coming in through the senses. The idea is that if we take the witness with us off the mat, then the irritations and frustrations of life won’t swing us wildly from elation to depression. When we reside enough as the witness, then we can transcend the small self and its concerns.

In dhyana, a meditative state, we can observe the fluctuations of the mind through the witness. In this meditative state, when we’re not reliant on the thoughts of the mind, we can allow prana to move the body. In this way, asana becomes a spontaneous practice. With dhyana, activities can become meditation in motion. Once prana leads us instead of the karmic-bound self-image, we can let go of the inner conflicts and reside always in the witness. A paradox, as it seems both linear, completing one step at a time, and cyclical, pratyhara to dharana to dhyana to samadhi, with the witness and techniques to concentrate and then meditate despite distractions, while residing in, and being led to, the witness consciousness. Easy, right? But we are human, so we might struggle with distractions, whether mental or emotional or physical. We have jobs and families and society that we reside within, so there are challenges to our concentration and meditative state. But yoga is a practice, and each moment of each day, we have the opportunity to come back to it. On the mat with the physical postures is a place to begin the journey.

Do you meditate on a daily basis? Are there techniques that you use that help extend dharana into dhyana? Please share below. In 2009, when I was engaged in YTT, I composed poems in an effort to share my understanding of some of the tools of yoga. Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation, Volume I can be viewed on my website: www.myjoyenterprises.com