|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 505]
Patanjali has described dharana as "the binding of the mind to a particular place" ... simple and precise, but oh-so-difficult to do! Arjuna complains to Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita:
“The mind is restless, turbulent and strong, as difficult to curb as the wind.”
~ Ch.6, V.34
Swami Gitananda Giri puts further weight upon this truth for the ordinary man/woman:
"This statement is from the greatest archer of his time, a man who was able to hit with an arrow the eye of a rotating metal fish suspended from a high ceiling, by looking at its reflection in a pool of water. If a man of such marvellous skill and concentration could complain that his mind was ‘difficult to tame as the wind’, what of lesser mortals?"
One of the biggest challenges throughout the ages is keeping the “monkey mind” quiet. Concentration, however, is like a muscle; its ability increases with practice, and diminishes with disuse.
So as we must perform regular physical exercises to keep the body strong and fit, we must also exercise the mind in order that it will be capable of being kept still and bound to a single point. Many methods exists for training the mind, from the repetition of mantras in japa, ajapa and ajapa-japa form, to visualizations, concentrations upon certain "inner sounds" (laya); the use of external concentration devices such as a yantra (geometric forms) and the very popular techniques of 'watching the breath'.
Focusing intently upon certain aspects of the body during asana practice can also be a form of dharana. All of these are geared toward the same thing -- one-pointedness of mind.
We have already engaged in several practices which contain within them some element of dharana. The hatha yoga asanas, kriyas and mudras all contain a concentration point to be held during their practice.
The same is true for pranayama, where certain points of concentration are used while controlling the breath, or in some cases, the breath itself is the point of concentration.
The jnana yoga kriyas are excellent for containing the mind within a specific field of attention...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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